Sherylyn Brightman, a Long Island native who raised four children on her own, working four to five jobs at once, died Saturday of cervical cancer, her family said.
Brightman, also known as Sherry, was 58. She died at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip.
Born May 7, 1959, in Oceanside, she graduated from East Islip High School in 1977.
Brightman often worked several receptionist jobs at the same time, she also made time to pursue her hobby of photography, turning her work into greeting cards and selling them locally to help support her family.
She was “a strong woman,” said Raychel Brightman, of Northport, a multimedia producer at Newsday.
Brightman was passionate about her children and sought to show them the world through a creative lens.
“She gave us all a camera when we were 5 and she took us out to Fire Island at 5 a.m. to take pictures of the sunrise,” Raychel Brightman said. “It was the beauty of the shores that kept Mom on Long Island all her life. She wanted her kids to see what she saw when the sun rose.”
Sherry Brightman was first diagnosed with cancer in 2004, but it went into remission after treatment, her family said. The disease returned three years ago.
However, she fought it long enough to attend the wedding of her son, Richard Brightman of Providence, three weeks before her death. She had blood clots in her legs and lungs, but insisted on leaving the hospital and even getting out of her wheelchair for a final dance with her son.
They held each other, swaying to Tony Bennett’s version of “The Way You Look Tonight” until her knees could no longer hold her, Raychel Brightman said.
Her love for children extended to her nieces and nephews, said former Newsday Publisher Fred Groser, Sherry Brightman’s brother-in-law.
“She was always one my kids could talk to when they couldn’t talk to their parents,” he said.
Sherry Brightman also had a way of finding lonely people and welcoming them into her life, Raychel Brightman said. For example, while working as a receptionist, she befriended an older customer who had no one to care for him.
“Hearing the loneliness in his withered voice, she took him out to lunch,” Raychel Brightman said. “Then [she] became his part-time caregiver and friend until he passed away.”
Known for her generosity, Sherry Brightman had a Sunday ritual in which she would go to a local diner with family and look for someone eating all alone and anonymously treat them to a free meal.
“She would pick up the check for them, even if she didn’t have the money for it,” said her daughter, adding that she will carry on that tradition in honor of her mother.
Other survivors include two daughters, Marissa Brightman and Mikaela Brightman, both of West Islip; sister Renee Groser of Yardley, Pennsylvania; parents Rosemarie and Donald Getrost, of Islip Terrace; and brothers Robert Getrost of Waxhaw, North Carolina, and Gary Getrost of Gilford, Connecticut.
A wake will be held Monday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at Chapey & Sons Funeral Home, 209 E. Main St. in East Islip. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Patrick’s Church in Bay Shore.
Sherry Brightman will be cremated.