Robert Martin Cheadle
A celebration of the life of Robert Martin Cheadle will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the Chickasaw Nation Community Center, 700 N. Mississippi Ave., Ada.
"Mitakuye Oyasin," the Oglala Lakota phrase for "We are all related," encompasses the value Robert Martin Cheadle lived by until Jan. 31, 2020, when he took flight from this earth.
In his own words, Robert let us know how he lived and how he related to his Creator and to all of life: "I am a part of everything, and it is a part of me. Everything else is dependent upon me, and I am dependent on everything else. I may have a degree and a high position, but it's no more important than the maintenance man or the artist or musician. It's just what I do. It's what I'm able to give to the community."
Robert Martin Cheadle was born Oct. 19, 1946, in Marlow, the first-born child of Overton Martin ("Buck") Cheadle and Ruth Howard Cheadle. Robert loved being the big brother to his brother, Thom, and sisters, Maryalice and Liz.
Robert enjoyed and excelled in sports - first baseball, but also basketball, football and even ice skating. Fishing in Iowa and on the Mississippi were his quiet, fun places.
The Colt League World Series brought Robert and his dad to play in Shawnee. For Robert, Oklahoma always felt like home.
Robert graduated from Rockford West High School, Rockford, Illinois, in 1964. Passionate about theater and acting, high school brought him leading roles in "The King and I" and "The Mikado," for which he earned a National Thespian Award. Given the time, Robert enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1966, serving in Vietnam until January 1969. Stationed near Da Nang in Vietnam, Robert engaged in multiple actions including Khe Sanh, Con Thien and Tet, among others. Due to injuries incurred while defending our freedom, Robert was awarded a Purple Heart.
Later, when thanked for his service, he always responded: "It was my honor." He felt what he was able to give for his country was just part of him.
After returning to Rockford, as part of the inaugural graduating class of Rock Valley College, Robert graduated with an associate degree. As with many fellow Vietnam veterans, life then took him through varied careers and passions, looking to fill a void he felt.
Before and after his return to Oklahoma in 1980, Robert was a boat builder, a commercial fisherman, a black belt and teacher of kung fu, a welder, a National Park ranger, an Ada police officer, a convenience store clerk and a Postal Service worker, all the while studying criminal justice at night to provide a better life for his family.
In addition to providing for his family, Robert sought to provide for the Chickasaw Nation and its people. He was successfully elected to the office of tribal judge for the Chickasaw Nation in 1983 and served as part of the original court that drafted the Chickasaw Nation's first Constitution. Robert's judicial term ended in 1989.
Moving forward, Robert graduated from East Central University in 1989 and enrolled in the University of Oklahoma School of Law. Robert focused on Indian law, a strength of the OU Law program to which he'd matriculated.
After graduating in 1992, Robert worked for Chickasaw Ambassador Charles Blackwell in Washington, D.C., before joining Fannie Mae, the Federal Mortgage Association, in Dallas. In this position, Robert worked on issues American Indians encountered when qualifying for bank loans to fund housing.
During his career with Fannie Mae, Robert volunteered to teach GED classes at the Dallas Intertribal Center, discovering that his students felt the same void he felt in his early life.
Robert expressed this as, "They all told me they always thought something was missing from their lives until they came to the Intertribal Center. There, they recognized their innate spiritual tie to other Indians."
Robert knew his true tie was to the Chickasaw Nation. So, in 1996, when Gov. Bill Anoatubby asked Robert if he was ready to come home, he was.
With the return to his Chickasaw Nation, Robert began to use his skills and talents to assist in the Nation in many ways, including assisting in taking Chickasaw Industries from a possibility to a reality.
Working together in 1998, Gov. Anoatubby and Robert created the Chuka Chukmasi Home Loan Program to promote home ownership among Chickasaw citizens. The program was a near-immediate success, and by 2000 Chuka Chukmasi finalized 100 loans on behalf of Chickasaw citizens. Soon after, Robert was appointed by Gov. Anoatubby to be the Nation's first attorney general.
In 1999, President Clinton appointed Robert to the Consumer Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve to represent the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, a district made up of rural America and reservation land, again with an emphasis on Indian banking issues. Until 2002, Robert held that position, stressing to the council the needs of Indian people. Robert served as legislative counsel to the Chickasaw Tribal Legislature from 2001 until he retired in December 2018. Robert continued to fill his life and find inner peace by helping others and working for the Chickasaw Nation.
Theatre also filled a place and provided an outlet for him. He was one of the first members of Chickasaw Historical Players, having the honor of portraying his great-grandfather Martin Van Buren Cheadle in a performance. He performed in the 2006 Oklahoma Centennial theatrical play "Te 'Ata," and also in the movie of same name.
Presentations of "The Christmas Carol" were made better by Scrooge Cheadle. Playing the conductor in the Chickasaw Removal got Robert back up on a horse.
Robert appreciated and deeply loved his family.
Robert is predeceased by his father, Overton Martin "Buck" Cheadle; mother, Ruth Howard Cheadle; and beloved stepmother, Helen Cheadle. Robert's brother, Thom Cheadle, passed away in 2006.
Surviving to continue his legacy of love, service and caring are Darlene Gustaitis Cheadle, his beloved wife, soul mate and rock who he knew since high school; his two sisters, Maryalice Cheadle Gaskell and her husband, Doug, (Nellysford, Virginia), and Liz Cheadle Nelson and her husband, David Davidson (Wilmar, Minnesota).
He is also survived by his sons John Martin Cheadle and wife, Ana, (Albany, New York), and grandson Jonathan Martin Cheadle; Dr. Lucas Martin Cheadle, (Boston) and Forrest Shane Cheadle, (Denver); and sons Adam Gustaitis and his wife, Jessica (Edmond),and grandson, Xander Robert Gustaitis-Verel; Dustin Mater and his wife, Titi, (Ada) and grandchildren Sophie and Hawk; sister/cousin Lynne Stumblingbear and her husband, Louie, (Witchita, Kansas); and many nieces and nephews, cousins and friends.
Chickasaw Nation Color Guard will serve as military escort and pallbearers. Honorary pallbearers will be the legislators of the Chickasaw Legislature.
With much gratitude, Robert's family appreciates the care and support received from the staffs of St. Anthony's Hospital, Shawnee, and the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center. Chokma'shki.
In lieu of flowers, please consider contributing to the Robert Martin Cheadle Scholarship to be established at the Chickasaw Foundation, PO Box 1726, Ada, OK 74821-1726.
Published on February 4, 2020


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Bob Kellogg
Feb 14, 2020
I am glad to have helped put Bob and Darlene together!
Ed c Maguire
Feb 07, 2020
I was saddened to learn of the loss of a fellow Marine. Over the years I knew Mr. Cheadle in various Marine Corps functions. These are my heros. Daily we lose their collective knowledge and experience. He will be missed. We are all truly related!