Sharon White

Sharon White

As the summer leaves of 2016 began their quick decent into fall, I was invited to sit down at Sharon's kitchen table and learn a bit more about her life. I was told the kitchen, and not the very impressive pantry, enclosed porch, formal dining area or other details, is what attracted Sharon and Larry White to the home that they purchased off Conifer in 1996. Family and friends alike have gathered to enjoy the spacious eating areas, ample storage, wonderful natural lighting and great view of the yard. Everyone is made welcome and encouraged to sit and chat a spell.

Sharon was born in Wausau, Wisconsin on October 14, 1940. Because she was such a lightweight (4#), her first several days were spent in the hospital. Her parents, having lost three children prior to their daughter's appearance, named her Sharon-Lea Mary Kroeplin. Sharon, who was raised as an only child, has never used her middle name, Mary, which was her Mother's name and long ago parted with the hyphen and second part of her first name. She usually signs her name as "Sharon L." Her Dad, an accomplished master carpenter, worked in a lumber factory that produced door frames, windows and other related building elements. Although her Mom was primarily a stay-at-home parent, she and Sharon's grandmother ventured into the restaurant business that was run on the side for several years in Wausau.

Sharon's early years were spent in the usual fashion, playing with neighborhood children, attending school In Wausau and eventually surrounding herself with successful, high achieving friends as she got older. She was independent and a talented musician besides. According to Larry, her husband of 56 years, (See Spotlight #40), her high standards took a plunge once she agreed to start seeing him on a regular basis! Sharon's Dad encouraged her to learn piano and accordion. As a result, she became such a proficient musician she paid her way through high school giving music lessons to children in the surrounding 30 mile radius of town. As a contract teacher with Wright's Music at the age of 16, she recalls a 30 minute lesson cost $3.00 in those days. With her talent and friendly nature, she was always in great demand as a teacher. She even saved enough to purchase her own vehicles, starting with a 1949 Pontiac and then a 1952 Hudson.

When she was fourteen, Sharon suffered a terrible personal blow when her Mom passed away. To this day, Sharon lists her Mom as the most influential person in her life. Always a stickler for honesty, the values her Mom passed to Sharon have proven to be her most important lessons and ones she has continued to share with her own children and grandchildren.

After teaching music for nearly four years, and graduating high school in 1959, Sharon began working at Heinemann's, a high end dress store. She was employed in the lingerie department for about a year until her marriage to Larry.

Although she'd done a significant amount of dating in high school, Larry White was Sharon's first serious boyfriend. This Silver Tongued Devil managed to capture her heart. They were formally engaged when she was 18 and were united in holy matrimony on May 28, 1960 when Sharon was all of 19 years old. Their first son, Bryan, arrived in 1962 and was followed by their daughter, Carrie, in 1965 with Sean, bringing up the end in 1971. The children are now middle-aged so the focus now is on their 3 grandchildren, who range in age from 6 to 21 years. Currently, there are three in college—UAF, Eastern Washington Cheney, and Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, one who is a student at North Pole High School and two in grade school in California. Larry reminded Sharon that their own three graduated from Ben Eielson High School as well as UAF. No doubt the sage words of Grandma Sharon's mantra echo in their ears: "You can become whomever or whatever you strive to be if you work hard enough. You can always reinvent yourself." Clearly, the sky is the limit with regard to these young people.

Sharon and Larry truly enjoy each other's company. However, by outward appearances, they might be considered as polar opposites. Larry is very outgoing, a spender by nature, impetuous at times and requires reining in by his calm, practical, and thrifty wife. Clearly, they balance each other out and together share the goal of doing whatever it takes to make the other happy. Their relationship is a consistent exercise in "divide and conquer." There are a few household tasks that Sharon dislikes (dusting and unloading the dishwasher) and she has passed them over to Larry, who has cheerfully taken them on permanently.

As the wife of a career Air Force military man, Sharon has seen a tremendous amount of country in their 20 years of active service. They share good memories of many of their duty stations but hold special regard for San Antonio, Texas and Sacramento, California. Never ones to limit their interactions to the boundaries of base, they have always been involved in the community with Scouts, dance classes, schools and other volunteering opportunities. When they were transferred to Alaska in 1974, this practice continued. When Larry started L.E. White & Sons, Master Engravers in 1976, Sharon was right by his side. She eventually left the family business to become an accredited medical records technician. This study eventually led to her accepting the position of Administrator of Carriage North. This long-term facility was located off Gillam Way and through the years, saw many changes. We now recognize this as Denali Center, an extension of Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.

Under Sharon's guidance, many of the programs and procedures we see today are a direct result of her implementation of activities and "out of the box" thinking. She exposed the residents there to regular celebrations and offered encouragement to patients and staff alike. She is very proud of her work in this field and doesn't regret the amount of effort it took to gain her credentials, though she lists this achievement as one of her biggest challenges. But, in fact, she said it paled in comparison to raising three children to be productive, valuable citizens and members of society! Sharon retired in 1985 and did some "Certificate of Need" contract work for a time.

"Chocolate" heads the top of Sharon's list of favorites. She is also particularly fond of good, home-made soups, enjoys working in her garden and is an avid reader of mysteries. Counted among her favorite authors are John Grisham, Michael Connelly and James Patterson. She is also a fan of crossword puzzles and Sudoku. Surprisingly, she is also a very ambitious, prolific firewood stacker and has 9 cords ready for burning in 2017 with 5-6 more cords drying for 2018.

I asked Sharon about her worst moment in life and she revealed she'd gotten a lung cancer diagnosis nearly five years ago. She said this news about took her breath away, but with quick treatment and robotic surgery at Swedish Hospital in Seattle, she was able to avoid chemo and radiation and feels great these days. She and Larry are loyal regulars at the Monday and Friday Exercise Group at the Senior Center. Members of Santa's Seniors since 2010, the couple attend potlucks and events and provide items for bake sales. Admittedly, Sharon is not much of a joiner but prefers to cheer others on from the sidelines. She absolutely cannot imagine life without her family and takes great pleasure in watching her own children raise, correct and guide their own offspring. She and Larry have agreed to a couple of rules in their house: "No electronic devices at the dinner table" and "Criticism stops at the door". We can only hope their grandkids realize now how very blessed they are to have such loving grandparents.

Sharon would like to be remembered as a good wife, mother and grandmother. And although I doubt she'll be summoned from this world anytime soon, it is a joy to know there is somebody in our own community who is so at peace with themselves and their loved ones.

Interview by Francie Cork 8/16/16. Photo by Santa's Seniors.

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