Publisher’s Perspective

The extraordinary women of Sisters on the Fly

Pictured are Sisters on the Fly members and cancer survivors Danis Cheney (Aransas Pass) and Caren Cook (Lake Whitney).
Pictured are Sisters on the Fly members and cancer survivors Danis Cheney (Aransas Pass) and Caren Cook (Lake Whitney).
Terence J. Fitzwater/Gonzales Inquirer

Sometimes on this journey called life, we are blessed to meet new people who can change our understanding of the way things are and the way things should be. I was fortunate to have it happen to me this week.

It started innocuously enough, but my personal epiphany about how women bond and relate to each other could not have happened without meeting the extraordinary ladies who are part of the Sisters on the Fly group. The Sisters on the Fly are having their first-ever national meeting to celebrate 20 years of existence. In what started out as a girls-only outdoor group, Sisters on the Fly has evolved into an incredible network of women being there for each other. Just like sisters. Please indulge me as I try to explain.

I heard the Sisters on the Fly were coming to town almost a year ago, but I didn’t really understand who they were or what they were all about. All I knew is that over 500 women from around the United States had decided to hold their first ever national convocation here in Gonzales. That in and of itself was impressive, but I did not understand who they were and what the group was. On Sunday and the days following, that all changed for me.

My first experience with the membership of the Sisters on the Fly came Sunday afternoon after I returned from a weekend relaxing in Port Aransas. I had received an email from Mayor Connie Kacir saying that a number of the ladies were going to float the river at Lou’s Canoes and it might make a good photo opportunity for the paper. On my way back into town, I stopped by Lou’s and met a few of the ladies in the parking lot. We chatted, and they began to tell me who they were, where they were from and why they were here.

Their story enthralled me. The five ladies I met on Sunday were from Florida. They were out having a good time, and they were eager to learn everything about Gonzales and the great state of Texas. They wanted to meet real cowboys. They wanted to see a working ranch. They wanted to discover a good dive bar in town. Their curiosity was overwhelming.

I did the best I could at answering their questions and telling them what I knew. Their names were Grace, Vicki, Patti, Connie and Dee, and they were funny as all get out. But as we were talking, I learned more about who they really were and why they were here.

The Sisters on the Fly movement is about sisterhood in all its best manifestations. It is about love. It is about caring. It is about support. It is about fellowship. It is about sisters loving one another, caring for each other, providing a listening ear or sharing an idea. It’s about women having each other’s backs. Unconditionally.

On Monday, I met Mary Lou Hostetter, the organizer of this event from Seguin, Texas. Mary Lou was very gracious in explaining the purpose of Sisters on the Fly and why they were in Gonzales. She introduced to me an extraordinary lady named Kate Dunlap, who is an amazing cook. Kate writes for a number of RV magazines and gave a free seminar on how to cook pork chops on the pit to about 75 ladies on Tuesday. She had an incredible story to tell about her life, her individuality, and her need to be in Sisters on the Fly.

On Tuesday, I got to meet and talk with Caren Cook of Lake Whitney and Danis Cheney of Aransas Pass. Both women are breast cancer survivors and had extraordinary tales to tell of cancer, bravery, suffering, survival and intestinal fortitude that would steel any man’s soul.

Caren discovered she had breast cancer when she was 36. She had a double mastectomy but persevered through the disease and illness. Now she is a leading advocate and support person for the women in the Sisters on the Fly movement. She makes extraordinary Texas bling out of spoons. It’s incredible.  She travels in a trailer called Hope and will talk to anyone who needs help, support, a listening ear or guidance.

Danis is a 20-year survivor of breast cancer. She discovered she had it while her children were still young. Her biggest fear at the time was that she would never see her children grow old. She is now a support person for her 15,000 fellow sisters who make up the Sisters on the Fly movement.

Caren captured the essence of the group in one sentence: “The support and love in this group is bigger than the state of Texas.”

For a man, to see the bond and unconditional love and affection these women have for each other was a revelation. It is an awesome thing to see, and I have to admit I felt a little envious about the comfort, friendship and support these women have for each other. Men do not do that for each other. Maybe it’s not a part of our genetic make-up. Maybe it’s because we are conditioned that way. But you would have to be a fool to not realize how awesome it is to have unconditional love, support and friendship from your sisters. Or brothers for that matter. But it doesn’t end there.

They even have a sub-group called SistersCorp—a group of women who help with disaster relief the minute it happens. They helped rebuild a home in Port Aransas after Hurricane Harvey. They have helped in Florida. They intend to do more about the flooding in Houston. Wherever help is needed, these women jump in to help and ask for nothing in return.

I was honored to have met and spent time with these ladies. I intend to spend more time with them and watch, listen and grow from their stories as the weekend goes on. Gonzales is blessed to have them here, and I hope they come back and visit again in the future.

In the meantime, if you see any of these incredible women around town, offer your hand in friendship. Give them a smile. And thank them for being great women and even better human beings.


Photo by Terence J. Fitzwater/Gonzales Inquirer

Pictured are Sisters on the Fly members and cancer survivors Danis Cheney (Aransas Pass) and Caren Cook (Lake Whitney).