Sunday, 26 May 2024

Sharon Dawson-Garrett

Sharon Dawson-Garrett. Courtesy photo.

Sharon Marie Dawson-Garrett
Sept. 4, 1960 – May 2, 2023

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. — Middletown lost one of its brightest stars early in May, when Sharon Marie Dawson-Garrett passed away in the company of family at a local care facility.

She was 62, having succumbed to complications from cancer that she had tackled since 2017.

“There was nothing standard about Sharon,” recalled her husband, Tommy Garrett, noting her achievements in painting, photography and writing. “She had an artistic gift, a vision that is rare and one of a kind.”

Born in San Francisco, the daughter of Caroline Marie Wiley-Collins, Sharon was raised by her mother and adoptive father, James Edward Collins, in Menlo Park, Calif. Sharon attended local schools and then majored in fine arts at Santa Barbara State University.

After moving to several towns with her sons, Sharon bought an old Victorian house in Middletown in 1988 and began her photography career. She worked for the Middletown Times-Star as an assignment photographer and, beginning in 1994, authored a weekly column, “Squawkings,” for more than a decade.

In 2014, Sharon’s portrait photography led her to launch “Wave of Hope,” a nonprofit program centered on individuals who had overcome turmoil, with Sharon’s interviews and pictures of the survivors forming the centerpiece of a traveling exhibit. She was awarded a Stars of Lake County Humanitarian Award for her work on the project.

According to her son Brandon, “Wave of Hope” embodied the concern for others that was a hallmark of his mother’s personality. “She never let anyone down,” he noted, adding that as a supportive mom and friend, “she always had your back.”

When the Valley Fire in 2015 destroyed their home, Sharon and Tommy rebuilt a house on the same site. “She wanted to stay near her neighbors in town, whom she called her ‘peeps,’” Tommy remembered.

After her cancer diagnosis, Sharon kept up her creative pursuits, notably writing an account of her medical treatments in 2022, “Suddenly Terminal,” in which she personified her illness as an unwelcome houseguest with whom she argues and ultimately accepts. She followed the publication of that book with a two-volume collection of her “Squawkings” columns, released earlier this year.

Sharon is survived by her husband, Tommy, whom she married in 2017 after 12 years of courtship; her sons Collin and Brandon; her first husband, Russell Dawson; her sisters Susan Nitzel-Blum and Jacqueline Cohen; and numerous cousins and an aunt from the Wiley family. Another sister, Annie Collins, died in 2018.

A celebration of Sharon’s life is scheduled for July 22 from noon to 3 p.m. at Twin Pines Casino in Middletown.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to to offset the cost of the memorial celebration.

Those who knew Sharon remember her as the heart and soul of her family, which she extended to include friends and pretty much anyone she met. Hundreds of people have known her for her caring, intuitive heart. She will always be remembered for her soul in her art, photography, and writing.

But lastly, she will be remembered for her humane nature and the caring she showed for her animals and gardens, nurturing them the same way she cared for everyone she befriended.

She leaves a hole in our hearts but will be remembered through the positive things we do to care for other people, the same as she did for us.

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