In a tidy, well-decorated room at Garden Place Senior Living in Waterloo, 93-year-old Cathy Harberding waited by the phone.
She waited not for family members to visit, but instead anticipated the arrival of someone she considers family: cartoonist and friend Mike Peters.
The relationship between the two is lifelong and dynamic.
Harberding worked as a secretary for Mike’s TV-star mother, Charlotte Peters, for 16 years on “The Charlotte Peters Show” at KSD TV in St. Louis during the 1960s.
Harberding saw Charlotte, known as “The First Lady of St. Louis Television,” host dozens of guests over the show’s run, including actors Jerry Lee Lewis and Bob Hope, musician Sammy Davis Jr. and more. Her list goes on and on.
Charlotte would often bring Mike to the TV studio when he was a kid, and Harberding has remained in contact with him throughout his life.
Charlotte is not the only Peters to make a name for themself, however. Mike has also had an extremely successful career as a Pulitzer-prize-winning cartoonist, and may be best known for his strip “Mother Goose and Grimm” and other editorial cartoons.
Though he now lives in Florida, he served as grand marshal for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dogtown, where he grew up.
While he was in town, he came across the river with his sister, Patricia Peters Schwarz, to pay Harberding a visit.
When Peters and Schwarz pulled up to Garden Place, Harberding’s whole face lit up.
As she walked them down the hall to her room, she introduced them to passersby.
“These are my kids,” she proudly told one of her fellow Garden Place residents.
The three sat in Harberding’s room for nearly three hours, swapping stories about Charlotte and the family and laughing until they could barely breathe.
“Mike’s going to be a kid forever,” Harberding said.
Harberding speaks highly of Mike and his dedication to the daily cartoon, his career and his family.
“I watched (Mike) grow up,” she said with a laugh. “He was such a cute little boy.”
Harberding said she spent more time with Charlotte than anybody else at the show, and Charlotte’s family was essentially Harberding’s family.
“I was at their house a lot, and they were at mine, too,” she said.
Mike’s sister has also had a lot of success as the co-founder of the Ballwin, Mo., restaurant Charlotte’s Rib, which is known for its family recipes and famous barbecue sauce.
Schwarz has also written a book about Charlotte’s life and television career, “Charlotte!
The First Lady of Saint Louis Television,” which is full of family stories about Charlotte, old photographs of her show’s guests and even family recipes.
“We are just blessed to be here with (Harberding),” Mike said. “This is such a treat.”
The three stay connected through the memory of Charlotte, who died in late 1988, and still enjoy being together just as much as they did when the kids were little and Harberding was a secretary.