Wartburg Hosts A Reading and Signing of Die Free: A Heroic Family Tale


On July 14th, Wartburg hosted a reading and signing of Cheryl Wills’ book Die Free: A Heroic Family Tale that pays homage to the treasured story of her great-great-great grandfather, Sandy Wills, who fled his slave master, Edmund Wills, and fought valiantly in the Civil War from 1863 -1865 as a member of the United States Colored Troops. The event was held in the state-of-the-art Rehabilitation and Adult Day Services Center located on Wartburg’s beautiful 34-acre historic campus in Mount Vernon, NY. Over 50 individuals were in attendance, including members of The Mt. Vernon Doles Center, Wartburg residents, registrants, patients, staff and community members.

David J. Gentner, Wartburg President and CEO, began the event by welcoming all those in attendance. During his opening remarks, Mr. Gentner noted “The Wartburg is honored to have Cheryl Wills’ visit us today and share the journey she has traveled in discovering her family’s tale that began with the Civil War nearly 150 years ago. Similarly, Wartburg will be celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2016. Founded in 1866 as The Wartburg Orphans’ Farm School, Wartburg was first a safe haven to children orphaned by the Civil War, and later, to seniors who wanted a safe and stimulating environment in which to live. Together the Wills’ family and Wartburg will continue to celebrate their rich heritage and create legacies for those to follow.”

Told with deep love and honesty, Die Free: A Heroic Family Tale, stretches from Haywood County, Tennessee, in the 1860s to New York City in the twentieth century. Cheryl Wills shares the unvarnished truth about the Wills’ family roots, ever entwined in passion, music and faith.

Ms. Wills is well versed in conducting extensive research as a nationally recognized award-winning journalist for NY1 News. The book is based on thousands of documents she received from the National Archives while researching her ancestry. Her second book, The Emancipation of Grandpa Sandy Wills, a children’s version of this historic tale, is scheduled to be published this Fall.

“I have addressed audiences the world over – from Senegal, West Africa to the United Nations. The seniors at Wartburg were the best. I will never forget their enthusiasm and their intense interest in my story,” said Ms. Wills. “Seniors are our national treasures and their stories deserve to be told. I feel like I’m part of the Wartburg family and I can’t wait for my next visit.”

After her presentation and Q&A, Ms. Wills personally signed copies of her book for those in attendance. The event was memorable for all who heard her speak and one they will never forget.

Cheryl Wills is an anchor and senior reporter for Time Warner Cable’s flagship national news network, NY1. Cheryl takes great pride in being the Founder and Commander of the New York State Chapter of the Sons & Daughters of the United States Colored Troops, a national organization based in Washington, DC. With that platform, she enjoys teaching students of all ages about the contributions of the 200,000 black soldiers who fought during the Civil War.

Wartburg is an award-winning provider of comprehensive senior services, including independent living, assisted living, Alzheimer’s/dementia care, skilled nursing, rehabilitation and hospice care. Its 34-acre campus in Mount Vernon serves seniors and their families in southern Westchester and the northern Bronx and now the NY Metro Area. Wartburg’s nursing home has been recognized by U. S. News & World Report as among the “Best Nursing Homes in New York State for four consecutive years, in 2014. Over the past few years, Wartburg has launched an ambitious building expansion program, including the Friedrichs Residence, with 61 independent living apartments, and a Rehabilitation and Adult Day Services Center, both opened in 2013.

Cheryl Wills signs copies of her book
Cheryl Wills signs copies of her book
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