Sharon Kubacki

Sharon Kubacki

Polish to the bone, Sharon Teresa Lewandowski was born on November 16, 1942 at St. Luke's Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was the eldest of three children whose parents owned and operated a tavern and restaurant in Muskego, Wisconsin. They'd purchased the business around 1940 from Mickey Jordan, the professional baseball player, who was also her father's brother-in-law. The former ballroom upstairs was remodeled into living quarters for the family of five and her parents operated this enterprise until it was sold in 1960. By that time, Sharon was grown and had had moved from the home. Sharon grew up eating kiszka, pierogi, kielbasa, babka, kluski, golabki, wuszt and many other culinary delicacies under the watchful eyes of her extensive, devoutly Catholic family.

Traditionally, every Saturday night the entire family, except for her parents who had to keep their business open, would join the rest of the neighborhood to go dancing at a local hall. Sharon lists this as one of her real passions and an activity she greatly misses. She particularly favors ballroom dancing, but with music in her soul—and apparently in her limbs, any form of dance brings her joy.

When Sharon was five years old, she contacted polio but recovered well enough a year later to begin ballet classes. She was quite gifted and danced for ten years, until she was sixteen, all the while dreaming of someday being a professional ballerina. Realizing her talent, her teacher wanted to take Sharon to New York to the American School of Ballet for further training and instruction, but family finances put an end to this.

Her first job was picking strawberries at the age of fourteen in Muskego. As she recalls, Sharon was paid 5 cents a quart for this hard, back-breaking, work and was ultimately fired because she ate more berries than she picked. She walked away all the richer for having had this job because she was able to pass this little gem on to her own sons several years later: "Get an education!"

Sharon was very close to her father and describes him as her hero. He was the parent who took the most interest, listened and did things with her. In her eyes, he was, "Hardworking, loving, caring and honest," and set the standard for the sort of man she wanted to someday marry. Unfortunately, without warning, Sharon's beloved father passed away at the very young age of 50, shortly after the sale of his business.

Sharon has always been a "joiner," and belonging to 4-H, Girls Scouts and Drama Club were only some of her extra-curricular activities. Fortunately for us, volunteering and committing is a trait she obviously never outgrew! She attended elementary school in New Berlin, Wisconsin and spent her freshman year of high school at the Girls Academy in Milwaukee by Lake Michigan. When a secondary school was finally built in Muskego, she returned to complete the remainder of her high school years, graduating in 1960. One year of college followed at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee before Sharon, at age 19, quit to marry the boy she'd dated for two years. This greatly displeased her mother, leading to an estrangement that lasted many years. In the end, the relationship was healed and time moved on, but at a very high cost to all involved. As a post-script to this cautionary tale, "Mom was right."

The marriage lasted six weeks short of 50 years, the last 15 of which found Sharon as sole caregiver for her husband who suffered with heart problems. Besides seeing to his needs, she also worked full-time at the Target Distribution Center in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. Needless to say, by the time her husband passed away in April of 2012, Sharon was stressed and exhausted.

Though this union wasn't always as happy as Sharon had hoped it might be, she is grateful and feels blessed to have two healthy, loving sons. In fact, besides the friends she has made at Santa's Seniors, Sharon is most grateful for her family. Her older son, Scott, lives in Wasilla with his wife Vicki and their three children. Her younger son, Jeff, resides with his wife Linda and their dog-child, Mia, in the North Pole area. It is Linda from whom Sharon derives her greatest comfort and considers her to be, "The daughter of my heart. A super little lady." Aside from sharing a mutually close relationship, Sharon says Linda is also the person with whom she has the most fun.

Several months before her husband's passing, Sharon had begun travel plans to attend the high school graduation of her grandsons, Cody and Ricki, in Wasilla. So, in May, Sharon went ahead with her arrangements to come to Alaska. After the ceremony, she returned to Wisconsin in anticipation of relocating to Ruidoso, New Mexico. By then, her home in Wisconsin had sold and she was looking forward to doing all the things she'd been unable to do for so many years. Now basically homeless, when her son Jeff revealed his plans to build living quarters for her in his home on Nordale Road near North Pole, Sharon packed her belongings, flew up here and has never looked back. To the casual observer, her decision to move north would appear to be bordering on the spontaneous and quite possibly irresponsible, but anxious to make up for lost time and start a new, good life here has been Sharon's own personal "fork in the road." She is absolutely at peace with her decision and considers it to be the best one of her life, so far. At this point in time, a trip to Hawaii is on her bucket list and one she hopes to cross off sometime this winter.

Since her arrival, Sharon has stayed busy. She joined 17 Mile Homemakers FCE, is a member of the Friends of the North Pole Branch Library and since joining in 2012, has been the most active, involved President the Board of Directors of Santa's Seniors has seen in a long time. She fills in for the Administrative Assistant as the need arises, has been known to call BINGO games, decorates tables in the dining room, is on hand to help at every event and fundraiser and currently serves as Bake Sale Chairperson. She is a usual fixture before and during most office hours around the Center. Asked what she sees for the future of Santa's Seniors, Sharon responded, "Continued growth." Her wish, however, is, "To expand the volunteer base. Other-wise, without help from the membership, fundraisers and other events will just have to go away." She is looking forward to no special event or occasion, but anticipates everything in general. At this point I'll simply back up Sharon's comments and remind our members that we could really use a helping hand and would encourage each one to give Santa's Seniors a few hours each month.

A born worry-wart, Sharon probably worries she spends too much time….worrying! Nevertheless, her hands stay busy with crochet as she crafts mittens she often gives away to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. Currently, she is making slipper-socks that might be available at our Gift Shop sometime in the future. She is also a die-hard Packers fan and has the Brett Favre bobble head, salt and pepper shakers and potholders to prove it! Be forewarned: Do Not Bother Sharon When Green Bay Plays.

Sharon describes herself as "Warm and caring," but stands her ground when she says she cannot abide being around people who lie. Although she prefers cats over dogs, family allergies prevent her from bringing a cat into her home, so she has chosen to settle with "Man's best friend." She hates to iron, and her greatest weakness is, "Saying NO." If a pile of money were to suddenly appear in her lap, Sharon wouldn't even consider spending it on herself. Instead, she would pay off both her son's mortgages. Sharon wishes her health was better, but is dealing with her circumstances and glad things aren't worse. As someone who is slow to complain, this statement comes as no surprise to me.

I asked Sharon to describe her "perfect day," and was given this imaginary scenario: "It is a spring day, my favorite time of year. The trees are beginning to turn as green-up has begun. I'm at home in my pajamas, listening to the birds with the sunshine on my face. My hands are empty. No phone, no visitors. I'm alone and happy."

Now that I've heard some of Sharon's personal story, I'm reminded of something I read. It goes: "I rejoice in what I have, and I know that fresh new experiences are always ahead. I greet the new with open arms. I trust Life to be wonderful."

Doesn't this sound just like the Sharon we've all come to love?

Interview and Story by Francie Cork ~ Photo by Santa's Senior