Tamara Mae Cherney, DVM, died peacefully on January 15, 2023. A long-time resident and practicing veterinarian in the greater Madison area, “Dr. Tammy” dedicated her life to the love and care of animals, touching the lives of countless animals and their owners, many of whom inevitably became life-long friends.
Tammy was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on September 8, 1953, the youngest of four sisters. The family lived in various locales during Tammy’s early childhood due to her father’s service as a commissioned officer in the US Army. It was while the family was at Ft. Benning in Georgia that Tammy and her sisters finally convinced their father to answer their dream of purchasing horses, with which Tammy participated in racing, dressage and hunter jumping competitions. These activities continued when the family and their horses moved to a hobby farm in Marathon, Wisconsin in 1969. In addition, her diminutive size and rapport with horses led to her working as a thoroughbred racehorse jockey at various racetracks around Wisconsin as a teenager. Tammy began to acquire a variety of dogs and cats throughout this time, sometimes animals belonging to neighbors that she coaxed to follow her home and would claim to have “found”. Her burning desire from the time she was little was to become a veterinarian and she began to develop her veterinary skills providing loving care to these pets.
After graduating from Marathon High School, Tammy left for college to pursue her dream of becoming a veterinarian. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in 1979, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota in 1983, a Master of Science in Veterinary Immunology from the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine in 1996, and a Master of Science in Epidemiology from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine in 1998. After receiving her DVM, Tammy worked as a large animal veterinarian caring for horses and farm animals and then as a small animal veterinarian before settling in 1998 into her long-time position providing expert care as a small animal veterinarian at the Middleton Veterinary Hospital in Middleton, Wisconsin. Her loving care of the animals and genuine affection for their owners, together with her mischievous, witty, and fun-loving approach to life made her beloved by her colleagues and clients alike.
Tammy’s personal life mirrored her professional life, revolving around the outdoors and animals. She bred, raised and trained AKC-registered basset hounds whom she regularly entered in conformation, obedience, tracking, barn hunt and rabbit hunt trials. She loved being surrounded by her “family” of dogs, sometimes as many as five, when she arrived home from a long day at the clinic or being outdoors with them and her husband during walks in her neighborhood and in local and state parks. She enjoyed being active and was a regular member of the Madison West YMCA. She looked forward to road trips to southern US states with her sister Linda and niece Rebecca or visiting Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior with close friends. She and her husband enjoyed time together on trails in Door County, Wisconsin, or hiking at Diamond Lake and Crater Lake National Park in the Cascade mountains or along the southern Pacific coast of her husband’s native Oregon.
Tammy was preceded in death by her parents, Col. Ernest and LaRae Cherney (Beck), and her sister Catherine Cherney Whitt. She is survived by her loving husband, Alan Rapraeger of Stoughton and her sisters Marcia Denzin and Linda Knoeck of Wausau, Wisconsin. She is remembered with great affection by her nieces Rebecca Knoeck (Bill Stancel), Keri Semrau (Chad) and Lisa Denzin (Derek Sant’Angelo), nephew Scott Denzin, special nephew Gage Stancel, stepdaughter Megan Rapraeger, and stepsons Bryan and Jonathan Rapraeger. She will be greatly missed by her dogs Mags, Annie and Flash.
There will be a gathering held on Saturday, January 28 at CRESS FUNERAL HOME, 3610 Speedway Road, from 1-4 pm to celebrate Dr. Tammy’s life. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Humane Society of Dane County( https://www.giveshelter.org/ ) or similar animal rescue agencies.
The family expresses gratitude to the expert healthcare teams at the University of Wisconsin Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics in Madison and Agrace Hospice in Fitchburg for their compassionate and loving care of Dr. Tammy. She loved seeing them all.
Cress Funeral & Cremation Service
3610 Speedway Road Madison