Sharon Lea Simpson Newsom died peacefully in her sleep on March 2, 2022, after a four-month battle with metastasized lung cancer. She was surrounded by family and went on her own terms - just as she lived her life. She will be remembered fondly as a fierce and big-hearted mama bear who looked after her family and friends with determination.
Sharon had a restless soul, with six passions in life: her family, her dogs, knitting, her students, travel, and real estate. She would light up a room with her smile and had the best shoulder to cry on. She will be dearly missed and she will always be warmly remembered. Her life was cut much too short, but she lived it fully and with grace. We, her family, share with you now the fullness of her time on Earth. We know she is watching down on us, shaking her head, and saying, that’s not how it went.
The oldest of three girls, Sharon was born to Norman and Minna Simpson in Seattle, Washington. A dutiful daughter, Sharon was obliged to contribute to the raising of her sisters early on. This early responsibility influenced the rest of her life, causing her to look after those under her care with an overwhelming level of dedication.
One of Sharon’s early loves was dance. She was a classically trained ballerina from an early age, and funded her own training by teaching children ballet while still in high school. Later she became a dance instructor for Fred Astaire Dance Studio.
Sharon graduated from Queen Anne High School, and went on to attend University of Washington. UW was not a great fit however, and she decided to take a break from school to see the world. She became a flight attendant for TWA and was based in New York City. Her typical routes included Spain, Italy, and Ireland. And the stories she told… She served first class and was known to be tactful while ensuring safety standards were met. After three years of this, she decided it was time to return home, finish her education, and get a real job.
So, she enrolled in Western Washington University and worked as a cocktail waitress. Unlike her freshman year, she was one determined, hardworking student with little playtime. First completing an undergraduate, and then a graduate degree in Speech and Language Pathology, she started her trajectory to her fourth (but not final) career. In between this time, she married and divorced her high school sweetheart Art Daughters.
After Western, Sharon moved to Vancouver, Canada to practice her lifelong passion of helping children to communicate effectively. Soon she was at another crossroads - to become a fully Canadian citizen, or to return to her roots. The pull to home was always strong for Sharon, and so she took a position with Bellevue Public Schools and once again lived on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle. It was during these days that Sharon came into her own and became the life of the party. She hosted many amusing soirees and made sure everyone had a great time.
As it sometimes happens, events merge to change one’s life forever. In her third year with Bellevue Public Schools, Sharon was dragged to a Friday happy hour by a colleague who needed a wingwoman. But like a plot twist in a rom-com, the colleague’s date (John Newsom) found Sharon to be much more to his liking. After the happy hour, a small group, including John and Sharon, headed off to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. This happy chance started a life long relationship.
Their first summer together cemented their love of entertaining, culminating in an afternoon party, “In Honor of the Empire” where friends and family gathered in her yard, dressed in formal attire. A croquet course was laid out and in an oh-so-refined manner, this motley group of likeminded misfits sipped gin & tonics and champagne, and competed fiercely for the NSFW (Not Suitable For Work) prizes. This was Classic Sharon at her best.
Sharon and John moved to Mount Baker Neighborhood, a place that created the perfect community for them to raise their children. First came Caitlin Jean MacLeod Newsom, a quiet girl they worried would be bowed over by the world. They soon learned how wrong they were! In her thirties she moved to Abu Dhabi, UAE, and followed the family tradition of traveling the world. Three years after Caitlin was born, Devon Scott Newsom came along. He is a kind hearted and gentle soul who overcame early struggles in school to become a successful software developer and teacher. The family was now complete.
“Social” Sharon faded into the background for a time, allowing “Mama Bear” Sharon to be born. No one would dare harass the cubs when Mama Bear entered the room. Her ferocity usually came out while defending all the people she loved even though she might not have been equally disposed to defend herself. Fairness, loyalty, dogged determination and courage were the virtues she embraced.
Sharon and John raised their children in equal partnership and ensured Caitlin and Devon would have the stability and closeness that was sometimes lacking in their own childhoods. Every spring and every Thanksgiving, they would pack up the car with kids, toys, and a dog, and go to the Sandpiper, an old beach resort on the Washington coast. Every summer, they would drive down to Sunriver, Oregon to ride bikes and enjoy the high mountain desert air.
In later years, Sharon and John would go beyond the northwest and head to Mazatlan, Mexico. It became a special place for them - a home away from home that would alleviate the Northwest winter drearies each February. At their resort, they were treated like family. Sharon would delight in acquiring new treasures from the beach vendors - having a blast using her negotiation skills to haggle for the best price. She and John would then spend the evenings enjoying the amazing food and beverages the town had on offer. It was truly a magical time for them. From time to time they were able to travel even farther afield. She attended her sister Marcia’s wedding on St. John to Randy Kiser, and then visited their island villa several times. She also made a pilgrimage to her ancestral home on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, and then to Paris, where she loved the cosmopolitan atmosphere, and was so glad to introduce John to the City of Light’s attractions.
Meanwhile, as much as Sharon loved supporting her special education students, she found that she needed a break from the enormous stress of the profession. In 1989 she embarked on yet another career, as a Real Estate agent. She followed the path of her mother in this arena. Sharon found joy in finding people their dream homes, working tirelessly to know and understand their needs. This made her happy. In this career, she rose to the rank of Managing Broker at Gerrard, Beattie and Knapp, a boutique firm in Seattle. However, it bothered her to be away from her children during dinnertime and the weekends, and so alas, after a few years, she returned to the school district. When her children were out of college, however, back to real estate she went!
Sharon was also able to channel her love of real estate in other ways. In the 1990’s, she chaired the Mt. Baker Home Tour - which was an opportunity for the neighborhood to open their turn-of-the-century homes to the public. She and John renovated two craftsman homes, the second of which is where they raised their children. To this day, the smell of paint reminds her daughter of home. Sharon was proudly able to help support both her children in finding and acquiring their own homes. Knowing she was able to help her children find security in this way was one of her great accomplishments.
Sharon had a love of beauty. Her creative outlets included her garden and her knitting. She found peace in these quiet realms. Her gardens had a distinctly English theme with an abundance of flowering perennials deftly arranged by color, height, and blooming schedule. She was equally fastidious with her knitting, improving over time and becoming a perfectionist in this craft. She mostly knit for other people and she chose each design and yarn type carefully with the recipient in mind. Even when her hands were swollen and in pain from arthritis, she would continue knitting for those she loved.
Driving on the other hand, was not such an accomplishment. To drive with Sharon was to know fear. A college-era car crash led to a lifetime of anxiety in moving vehicles, which sometimes expressed itself as rage. Driving the wrong way down a one-way street? Obviously it was the other person’s fault, and Sharon had no qualms to blame the behavior on the audacity of “Gen Xers”.
Sharon grew up with a West Highland White Terrier. It was the only breed of dog she would ever own and throughout her life, she owned many. Her love affair with Westies culminated in her purchasing two show quality pups, showing them in AKC sponsored shows until they became champions, and then breeding the two to help create a healthier, happier Westie line. Her small kennel Kyleakin was born. Those who know Westies know they can be difficult and stubborn (not unlike Sharon herself). Sharon would not hesitate in denying potential puppy parents a dog if they were not up to her stringent standards.
The final joy came into Sharon’s life when a grandson, Dax, was born to Devon and Becca in May of 2020. He brought to her a completeness that swelled her heart. It is with profound sadness that she will not be able to watch him grow up down the street from her. But the time they had together was everything.
Sharon is survived by her husband John, children: Caitlin (Lee Zerrilla) and Devon (Rebecca Newsom), grandson Dax, sister: Marcia Simpson (Randy Kiser), a flurry of West Highland White Terriers, and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins. She was preceded in death by her parents, Minna Grobe (James Grobe) and Norman Simpson and her sister Gael Seward (Michael Lewis). In lieu of flowers, consider making a contribution to the Westie Foundation in her honor. https://westiefoundation.org/donate
Sharon's Celebration of Life has been temporarily postponed until a later date.
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