My Hero, Sharon Sue Hollister Parke (June 27, 1941 – February 6, 2011) *She’s smiling in heaven

The last time I got to see my Grandma Sharon, before I went back to school for Spring semester at Grove City College, I spent several hours with her, playing bingo in the nursing home common room, then had a chance to talk just grandma and me in her room, but I’ll never forget that last warm hug. She loved in the way only a grandma can, and she was always so proud of me.

This is from a post I wrote the day I had to say goodbye to her. I remember it vividly. Taking the bus back to Findlay. My dad picking me up and the tears began to fall. Then getting to the nursing home and seeing my sister, Caitlin, I completely lost it.

And I had the honor of saying a few words about my hero, my favorite person in the world, through tears.

As I said goodbye to Grandma Sharon at the funeral home, the song “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone” was playing and I can’t listen to it today without thinking of that moment.

Grandma Sharon, Caleb Parke, grandma and grandson

Here is that post:

from February 9, 2011 at 8:59pm

Today I said good-bye to my favorite person in the world.

I thought of two words about Grandma: love & beautiful.

I didn’t want to say good-bye and I will not forget this day.

Grandma Sharon Sue Hollister Parke – I remember legos at the bowling alley, tacos on Sundays, watching Scooby-Doo (Grandma always solved the mysteries before they did), sorting gummy dinosaurs (after a trip to Meijer in Grandma’s blue car) watching mystery movies and putting puzzles together then spending the night, Grandma calling me and singing happy birthday to me every year on April 10th,  stopping by Grandma’s house after soccer games where she gave me a true sense of pride, watching the fireworks at Grandma’s house and going inside with her (our favorite were the ‘willow tree’ ones), freckles being called angel kisses, visiting Grandma in the nursing home giving both of us unspeakable joy and so much more.

I love you so much Grandma – I’ll always remember your warm embrace and your unconditional love.

I wrote this when I was in 4th grade (thank you Mrs. Boehm for giving me this assignment).

Life is Good by Caleb Parke

My grandmother, Sharon Sue Hollister Parke, was born on June 27, 1941.  She was named for the Rose of Sharon in the Bible.  She lived with her parents and grandparents on their farm while she grew up.  They had no electricity, indoor plumbing, nor telephones.  “I was lucky to live like a pioneer girl in a modern world.  We had a covered wagon that we used in parades.  I had a dog, cat, chicken, rabbit, pig, cow and horse all named Susie (my nickname).  I also had a goose named Oscar that wore a collar.  Having all my animals named Susie saved time when we loaded up the covered wagon and made pretend trips to the West, the Pacific, Africa, Italy, France and Germany.  We followed the map pins as my dad and four uncles moved through the war,” reminisced Grandma.

Grandma said her school days were like ours except for two things:  Girls could not wear jeans or slacks and recess kept girls on one side of the playground and boys on the other.  Grandma loved writing stories and performing in front of the class.  Grandma took a test and then was told her parents were supposed to come to school.  They came and met with her teacher.  She thought she was really in trouble.  Her mother was crying and her father had tears in his eyes.  The teacher explained about a new program at the University of Michigan.  They were choosing ten students from all over the country and Grandma was one of them.  She wanted to go, but her parents didn’t want her to go.  She would have to live there and that was why they were so upset.  They couldn’t let her leave home at that young age, so she didn’t attend.  Grandma was very sad because she loved to learn so much.

In ninth grade, Grandma came in third in the state in a Latin test. She wrote a fifteen minute weekly radio program for WFIN about teen news.  She was one of the students on a committee to found the teen Anchor center.  In high school, Grandma worked on the Findlay High School paper as Feature Editor and wrote news.  Grandma decided she wanted to be a reporter.  Her father’s cousin worked for the first news service, traveling the world, and Grandma was impressed and excited by this.  She graduated from high school at sixteen years old with a 4.0 grade average!

Grandma turned down her college scholarship and married my Grandpa Larry instead.  She then had three sons.  They built their first home on Fishlock Avenue in Findlay and she still lives there today.  She and her sons swam, hiked, started cub scouts and worked at school.  After 11 years Grandma divorced.  So, to earn a living, she became a manager at Sears.

In the early sixties, Grandma became involved in civil rights.  “My first protest happened in Atlanta, Georgia where my parents lived.  The boys and I went to eat and I saw black people getting their food from a window.  My father explained that black people were only allowed in black businesses.  The waitress came to take our order and I said ‘nicely’ that I could not eat there nor have my children see this.  It was the first time I was called a ‘trouble-making Yankee carpet bagger’, but not the last!” Grandma exclaimed.

Grandma protested many different causes.  She marched and worked for the end of the Vietnam War and nuclear disarmament.  She also marched for civil rights with Dr. Martin Luther King twice.  She drove right into the middle of a near riot in downtown Atlanta, but was kindly escorted by black men forming a chain all around her car.  While other cars driven by white people were being overturned and burned, Grandma was saved due to her two stickers:  one showing a black fist and a white fist clenched together saying ‘We Will Overcome’, and the other her volunteer black voter registration sticker in the window.  One black man yelled ‘Bless you, ma’am and that was the only reason Grandma made it out of danger.  It happened the day they brought Dr. King’s body back to Atlanta after he was shot.

Grandma also got involved with local politics, working to get Dick Celeste elected to governor.  She was the Hancock County campaign manager.  It opened many doors to her.  “I still have the official invitation to the inauguration ceremony of President Jimmy Carter and the White House Christmas cards from that presidency,” Grandma remembered.

Grandma’s next job was to get a law written and passed that would prevent domestic violence in the state of Ohio.  From there, Grandma got involved in starting the first domestic violence shelter here in Findlay.  One of her jobs at the shelter was to train policemen about how to handle and identify a violent offender.

In 1974 Grandma became very ill and it changed her life forever.  She was in the hospital for three and a half months.  The following year she was in the hospital 34 weeks.  Grandma was disabled from then on and learned to become a creative money manager, living only on her disability income.  She raised her three sons, saw them graduate from high school and put them through college with her retirement money, scholarships and grants.  “With our creative money management, we could erase the national debt!” Grandma surmised.  Grandma also paid her home off during those years.

In 1980, Grandma traveled the whole country when her mother became ill.  Her mother wanted to “see everything famous or fabulous made by God or man before she died” Grandma said.  She then cared for her mother until she passed away in March 1982.

After that, her sons graduated from college and began working in their respective fields.  “Steve stayed in Findlay and is still working for Midwest Laser Systems and is now considered a world expert in thermal-forming and hydraulics,” Grandma said with awe in her voice.  Jeff went to work for John Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Washington D.C. and has a high security clearance.  “They did Star Wars research and developed the Trident Nuclear Missile System there,” Grandma beamed as she spoke of her son.  And Brian”, who is my father, earned a business degree and went to work for an environmental company.  “Brian started and financed his own environmental company.  He has successfully juggled his time between his job and family, while nurturing and growing both,” Grandma admired.

In 1986, her father won the lottery and then had a stroke.  Grandma took care of him for the next ten months.  “In 1989, Cole came into my life and my heart was full.  Then in April 1991 Caleb was born:  the most awe-inspiring event in my life.  I was almost 50 years old and my first biological grandchild was here,” smiled Grandma.  1992 was busy; Grandma had a heart attack, Steve had a ruptured colon, and her father died in August.  Then Caitlin was born in 1993.

After Grandma became ill, she made a vow to try or do one new thing every year.  Grandma has tubed down the Potomac River, taken a Caribbean cruise, and visited the Smithsonian and National Museum.  Over time, Grandma’s ideas have slowed down:  searching auctions, flea markets or garage sales for her collections, or a great new book.  She loves extended stays with friends to discuss politics, or argue Bible fine points or search for the perfect craft materials.

But, Grandma makes it clear that the most exciting thing in her life is her family.  Listening to them, watching them actively live responsibly, full of caring, honesty, and love for their wives and children with integrity to all.  “I see my grandchildren learning with bright, open minds and loving spirits.  God is great, life is good and I am happy!”  Grandma laughing exclaims.

Grandma Sharon, family, Parke family
Grandma Sharon and her “grandbabies!”