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CORNELIA SHARPTON OBITUARY

Cornelia (Connie) Jean (nee Clulow) Sharpton, 82, passed peacefully in her sleep on July 5, 2022. Born in Washington, D.C. on March 18, 1940, Connie was the oldest of two children born to Ernest Clulow, Jr. and Mary (Wilkinson) Clulow-Stallings. Connie loved to share stories about her younger years as her family moved from D.C. to Florida to Little Rock, Arkansas while her father completed his Naval service during World War II. She reminisced about beach adventures and playing baseball with her brother, George, and the neighborhood boys. Connie fondly retold how her father invented toys for them to try and brought home wild animals for them to discover. As her father needed care that necessitated him living away from home, much of Connie's youth was marked by her bond with and admiration for her devoted, hard-working single mother. Her mother's giftedness at nurturing Connie and her brother while modeling the will and sacrifice required to be a strong, educated, independent career woman paved the way for Connie's future.

Connie graduated from Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1958 during a pivotal era in the civil rights movement. She was inspired by the resolve she witnessed by her classmates of color who were integrating into her school for the first time. She noted the actions of supportive educators and followed their lead. As a devoted student, she devoured literature and studied language and the arts in order to secure a scholarship that would send her to the University of Arkansas. She excelled as a learner and completed her A.B. degree in English while working several jobs, fully engaging in the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, and serving as an officer for Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Lambda Delta. During this time, she also embarked on a summer's long journey across Europe, an adventure that she talked about until her final days as she remembered the ship's Atlantic crossing, hitchhiking, attending performances of all kinds, exploring history, dancing, dating, creating friendships, and awakening to the beauty of the world. This sparked her love for travel and adventure. Connie continued with graduate studies and served as a graduate assistant at both the University of Arkansas and Auburn University.

During 1964's summer semester at University of Arkansas, she met Wendell Sharpton in the cafeteria. Their love developed through deep conversations about life, literature, and learning. Wendell sang songs, quoted poetry and wrote long letters as he romanced Connie, something he would do for the remainder of their lives together. After summer, Connie moved to Emporia, Kansas to begin her teaching career at The Teachers College in what is now Emporia State University. By the end of December, she and Wendell wed even as they continued their long-distance romance for the rest of the school year. In Summer 1965, she moved from Emporia to Sand Springs, Oklahoma where her husband was already established in his career as an educator. This became the home base for them to raise their two daughters, Leslie and Stacey. Connie endowed her love of adventure, art, music, film, literature, history and travel to

her children. Days were spent listening to classical records she'd collected as she explained the meanings of music. Countless books and poems were shared as the symbolism that poured from the pages was brought to life. No matter the sacrifice, every summer was not complete until the family piled in the car and headed to a new destination full of surprise and wonder.

Although Connie served as a full-time parent during part of her children's early years, she turned her attention back to balancing career and family as soon as possible. Her greatest love was that of being a teacher. She spent 24 years in education, primarily as an English teacher at Charles Page High School in Sand Springs. Mrs. Sharpton was known for her love of short stories, symbolism in literature and film, Shakespeare, grammatical perfection and creative writing. Her intensity as a teacher pushed her students to excel, to never expect less of themselves than their best. She believed in the abilities of all students and rejoiced in moments when they would understand a concept, accomplish something, or value themselves as learners for the first time. While her classes were filled with high expectations and heavy work requirements, they were also filled with laughter and creativity. On Sundays, she could often be found teaching some more, this time with younger students in Sunday school or children's church at the Sand Springs Church of God. She completed her career in Sand Springs as director of the alternative learning program where she assisted students needing support outside of the traditional classroom.

Upon retirement, she and Wendell moved to Hot Springs Village, Arkansas, where they enjoyed lakeside living, boating, mission work through Village Bible Church, reading, playing games, working puzzles and traveling all over the world with friends and family. In 2018, a health crisis required her to leave the solitude of her Lake Balboa home and move to the St. Louis, Missouri area to be near her daughter Leslie. The next four and half years were marked by both the cognitive and physical challenges associated with Alzheimer's Disease. At the same time, these years provided a unique space for creating new memories and strengthening bonds with her children and grandchildren as they cared for her. She passed knowing that she was well-loved by her family and her caregivers at Family Partners Home - Manchester. Even though their care needs required them to live separately in their later years, Connie and Wendell celebrated 57 years of marriage until his passing just twenty-three days before hers.

In her high school classes, Mrs. Sharpton relished the opportunity to teach from Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach as she made Jonathan fly off the pages of the short novel and illuminate her students' minds. In the last couple of months of her life, her daughter read this book to her. Alzheimer's had made parts of the story foggy for her; but she completed the phrase, "The gull sees farthest who flies highest" when she heard it. She then connected to the deeper meaning of the book, talking about truly living, being joyful in our experiences, chasing perfection, and finally facing death and Heaven. The "teacher" remained to the very end, sometimes hidden behind the struggle, but always seeking the symbolism revealed in each moment. Connie has now joined the Great Teacher in her Heavenly home. She can now see further and fly higher than we can imagine.

Connie was predeceased by her husband, her parents and her brother, George Clulow. She is survived by her two children: Stacey (Dan) Loop of Austin, Texas, and Leslie (Eric) Johnson of St. Louis, Missouri; as well as five grandchildren - Sam, Spencer, Mason, Iris and Alexandra. She is also survived by her sister-in-law, Suzanne Clulow and her nephew and two nieces.

A shared graveside memorial service will be held for both Mrs. Sharpton and her recently deceased husband, Dr. Wendell Sharpton on August 13, 11:00 AM at Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery, 1200 N. Cleveland, Sand Springs, Oklahoma. This will be followed by a 2:00 - 4:00 PM celebration of life reception at the Dr. Wendell Sharpton Library at Clyde Boyd Middle School, 305 W. 35th Street in Sand Springs. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in memory of Connie to one of her favorite organizations: Children Evangelism Fellowship, Inc. (
cefonline.com), Fellowship of Christian Athletes (https://www.fca.org/donate), and Sand Springs Education Foundation (sandspringseducationfoundation.com).

 

 

 

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