Great Great Grandmother Sharon

November 14, 2022

Dear Great Grandson,

I’d like to introduce you to your Great Great Grandmother, Sharon Lee Anderson Thurman.

On this day, exactly one year ago, I was sitting in a University of Utah Medical Center hospice room, waiting for your Great Great Grandmother (GGG) Sharon to pass away. She had had several serious health complications over the last few years and everything finally caught up with her. Despite her regular threats to leave us early, she fought to the end and I’m very proud of her for that. I can testify that her last few years weren’t easy.

Once she passed, the duty of making the funeral arrangements fell to me. Although several relatives and friends offered, I refused their help and chose to do the minimum for a variety of reasons. It was an odd time. First, the Covid pandemic was in full effect. Wearing masks and getting vaccinated became mandatory. People were scared. Hospitals, funeral homes, and other death related service businesses were short-staffed…everything was delayed or canceled. Second, some family issues existed and I didn’t want to create any additional drama.

Sharon loved attention. It was a part of her personality that everyone close to her recognized, but that she denied. From her prized golden Michael Kors purse, to her unnecessary wheelchair, you always knew when Sharon was in the room. It was a characteristic that allowed her to make new friends easily, but one that over the long haul pushed them away. A blessing and a curse.

If I had written an obituary it would have said something like this:

“Sharon Lee Anderson Thurman of Salt Lake City, UT passed peacefully away in her sleep on November 14, 2021. She was 79 years old. Sharon resided in Salt Lake City (almost) her entire life, living her final twenty-plus years within a mile of where she was born and raised. She was proud to be a Utahn.

Sharon is predeceased by her son Mark, the youngest of her three children. Sharon is survived by her daughter Jan, son Scott, and her four grandchildren, McRae and Ellen (Jan’s), and Ariya and Haydn (Scott’s).

Sharon was born to Thomas Webster “Webb” Anderson and Mary Ileen Jensen. Webb was an automobile mechanic, and Ileen worked as a clerk at Zion’s Bank. Sharon was the middle child. Her oldest brother Doug, passed away a few years ago, and her youngest sister Cheryl now lives in Idaho.”

Your relatives were “rednecks”, “pioneers“, “Hillbillies”, farmers. I suspect that anybody that has deep genealogical roots in Utah, like we do, has a similar history. Your “kin” were also fanatically Mormon, a religion that places a high value on large families. Back in the day, an individual’s esteem, was measured by the size and strength of his or her family. In fact, not that long ago (1800s) a large family was critical for it’s name to make it to the next generation. More children, specifically male children, insured that the family’s name and genetics would continue. Sharon’s parents, Webb and Ileen (pictured), were responsible for making the leap from the farm to the city, and they took a lot of those rural, Mormon values and perceptions with them.

Sharon went to Highland High School where she fancied herself a bit of a delinquent, or “Greaser“. She was the one getting caught smoking in the boy’s room, or saying “damn” instead of “darn”. She often told the story of how she and some of her classmates would hike up a nearby mountain to repaint the “H” near Highland High (a tradition that continues). One particular day, Sharon and some of her classmates decided to carry an old tire to the top with them, with the plan of lighting the tire on fire and rolling it down. It didn’t end well and Sharon was allegedly grounded for months.

Sharon loved to ski and she was really good. She took pride in the fact that she was the one that got the family started in the sport. She certainly started me, giving me my first lessons on the slopes of Mountain Dell Golf Course. That’s right. A golf course. There were no chairlifts or even a rope tow. We had to hike up that stupid hill! I vaguely remember learning to side-step and doing the herringbone to make my way back to hill. If I didn’t do it right, Sharon would whack me with her ski pole. All of Sharon’s children loved to ski, and all of her grandchildren love to ski. Her first grandchild, McRae Williams was so good that he was asked to represent the USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea and Ariya (pictured) was the Captain of the El Dorado Hills High School ski team!

Sharon loved music and had dreams of being a concert pianist and playing in Carnegie Hall. Unfortunately, while working in a restaurant as a teenager, she slipped and fell into a tub of broken glass, which resulted in a handicapped hand. The hand healed, and she eventually regained full mobility, but she’d never play at Carnegie. Your Great Uncle Mark was a talented musician. His instrument of choice was the guitar. And then of course Haydn (aka “Kublaii”) Thurman went on to become one of the greatest musicians to ever live! Sharon loved to listen to Haydn play the piano. She would sometimes sit outside the teaching room and listen as Haydn taught piano to his young students.

Sharon loved painting, a talent that she inherited from her Father, and Grandfather. She specialized and taught Decorative Painting (“Don’t call it Toll Painting! Don’t you DARE call it Toll Painting.) In the 80’s she served as the President of the Decorative Art Society, a position she was very proud of. This artistic gene has been passed on to her Granddaughter Ariya, who has developed into a fantastic artist in her own right.

Sharon loved her husband, James “Jim” Kent Thurman. She was proud to be Mrs. Thurman. They met sometime in the late 50’s, or early 60’s. Jim was in college, studying to become an accountant, and Sharon had just graduated High School. One of Jim’s Kappa Sigma fraternity brothers, who was dating Linda Bement, Ms. Universe 1960 lined them up. Linda was one of Mom’s friends, and the rest is history.  Back then, people got married and had kids as soon as they got out of school. That was “Plan A” for many. Sharon and Jim were married on February 23, 1961. Soon after they were married, Jim was conscripted into the US army and sent to train at Fort Hood, in Texas. Fortunately, he never saw active duty and they soon moved back to Salt Lake City. Sometime in the 1970’s (maybe it was caused by the 70’s), their relationship took a hard left. They took steps to try and save their marriage, like marriage counseling, and even getting “married in the temple”, but they eventually divorced and Sharon never remarried.

Here are a few things that I’ll remember about your Great Great Grand Mother:

  • I didn’t realize it while she was alive, but she was and continues to be, one of my greatest teachers. Among other things, she taught me the basics; how to walk, use utensils, read, write and bend the rules occasionally. She also inadvertently and unintentionally helped me to learn a new level of patience, empathy, and duty. 
  • I remember having the croup as a small boy and her sitting with me in the steamy bathroom trying to help me clear my lungs. She rubbed Vicks mentholatum on my chest, and hooked me up with some righteous paregoric when my stomach hurt.
  • I remember a time when she was driving me and a friend up to what was then Park City West. I was in the back seat wrestling and being naughty. In an effort to try and discipline me, while keeping her eyes on the road, she reached back to squeeze my leg and accidentally grabbed and pinched my friend’s leg. We laughed about that for decades.
  • I remember the road trip that she, her mother (Great, great grandmother Ileen) and I took from Salt Lake City to Washington, D.C. where I was moving to start my career with a company called Concierge Services of America. I was in my early twenties and amazed that I could have a good time with two old ladies. In St. Louis, we stopped for dinner, and the waiter suggested a “Gordon Salad”. We couldn’t figure out what the waiter was saying until we were back in our rooms when it dawned on us that he was saying “Garden Salad” with a heavy mid-west accent.
  • I remember the annual pilgrimages to Disneyland. One year, Sharon and Jim bought a brand new Chevrolet station wagon complete with an 8-track stereo. They purchased three cassettes that we listened to over and over and over. The soundtrack to “Grease”, the soundtrack to a “Star is Born” (Barbara Streisand and Chris Kristoferson) and Roberta Flack (“Killing Me Softly”). 

Well, Great Grandson, I hope this gives you a little idea of the wonderful person your Great Great Grandmother was. She was human, with faults and personality issues that often drove us crazy, but the net effect of her on my life (and less directly on yours) was overwhelmingly positive. I miss her.

That’s it for now! Go tell you Mother you love her…Great Grandpa Thurm

Published by Thurm

I'm an author, creator, and influencer. I create content about Utah, China, Hong Kong, Mormons and whatever strikes me. Looking to develop mutually beneficial business relationships with other creatives.

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