Sharon Frickey died peacefully at her home in Arvada, Colorado on July 26, 2023. She was 84. Her husband of 66 years, Norman G. Frickey, was at her side. She is survived by four daughters, 11 grandchildren, and 9 great-grandchildren. She is preceded in death by her mother, Mary Naomi Lamb; her father, Mark Edward Flinn; her brother, Edward Raymond Flinn; and her biological father and mother's first husband, Adrian John McShane.
Sharon was born Marilee Sharon McShane in Joplin, MO on August 28, 1938. She never knew her biological father, Adrian McShane, but would often recall the generosity, compassion and love of Adrian’s Aunt Emily. Aunt Emily left a lasting impression on her that fed her adventurous spirit and instilled in her a lifelong love of learning and service, as well as a love of afternoon tea, complete with freshly pressed linen tablecloths, and matching place settings.
When World War II ended in 1945, Sharon and her family headed west. Their family now included her mother’s second husband, Mark Flinn, and her half-brother Ed. They moved from Joplin to Colorado in 1948, eventually settling down in west Denver. Sharon excelled as an honor student at Lake Junior High and West High School (Class of ‘56). She spent her summers keeping close tabs on the Denver Bears (Denver’s AA baseball team) and joining her parents, along with various aunts, uncles and cousins on weekend fishing and camping trips. She spent these years devouring pan-fried Rainbow trout and sliced potatoes cooked in cast iron skillets over campfires - a vast improvement over the Ozark creatures her family hunted to stave off hunger during the Great Depression.
In the summer of 1956, somewhere between high school graduation and her departure for college, she reluctantly agreed to a blind date with a friend of a friend who was back in town. That friend of friend was Norm Frickey, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Sharon and Norm married in Denver the next spring on March 22, 1957. Together, they packed several lifetime’s worth of adventures, travels and accomplishments into the next six-and-a-half decades. Moving more than 24 times to places spread out across three continents and eight states. Sharon looked at each assignment as just one more chance to write another chapter of their own adventure.
In 1960, Norm was called to active duty in the United States Army, part of President Kennedy’s response to the crisis in Berlin. Sharon seemed to effortlessly make the transition from the wife of a school teacher to the wife of a Regular Army Officer. She, along with their three young daughters, Marilee Alinda, Marilynn Kay, and Mariann Shay, stayed at Norm’s side whenever they could. At each new post, Sharon worked her magic to make quonset huts feel like home and learned the infinite list of “do’s and don’ts” for the wife of a junior officer.
Holidays were a special time for Sharon, and by extension, her family. She loved decorating, cooking, planning and hosting any and all holiday festivities. She crafted Halloween costumes, sewed Christmas stockings, and baked birthday cakes decorated with carefully piped frosting and sprinkles. In an ironic twist of fate, it was on a holiday - Valentine’s Day, 1968 - that Sharon learned the news that forever changed the course of her adventure.
This was the day that Norm received orders that his military intelligence unit in the 82nd Airborne was being deployed to Vietnam, a reaction to the 1968 Tet Offensive. While Norm commanded his unit through some of the worst years of the Vietnam War, Sharon soldiered on at Fort Bragg, caring for three young daughters and a French Poodle named Shammy, all the while working as a researcher for an intelligent research project set up the American University and located on post.
For perhaps the first time in her life, the insider information of her daily work combined with the onslaught of current events playing out each night on evening news was a hostile force she had to manage, for her own sake and for her three girls. The proverbial wolves howled at the door, but she held it closed. The same tenacity and faith that had carried her through the first 30 years of her life reinforced her unwavering belief that Norm would return home safe and sound - which he did in 1969 following the end of his tour of duty.
In early 1971, after one more overseas post in Turkey, Norm made the gut-wrenching decision to resign his active commission from the Army. Sharon, right by Norm’s side, prepared for their new life as civilians, adding one more daughter, Marijean Marie, to their family.
For the next 10 years, as Norm built his second career with the Veterans Administration, Sharon shepherded their family through moves to small towns in Missouri, Indiana and Montana. She continued to search for treasures, plan family picnics, and camping trips. Each holiday celebration brought new additions to her growing family, first in the form of finacés, then spouses, then grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Sharon never failed to find another table, add another chair, and throw a little more in the pot for her holiday and family gatherings. All were welcome as she ordered everyone to “scooch in” a little closer and make room.
Sharon always found a way to feed her hunger for knowledge and new challenges. She returned to higher learning in 1978, completing the courses required for a four-year Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature in 18-months, and finding her calling as an educator. She taught multiple art classes, sponsored speech and debate teams, and even spent two years teaching Spanish.
By the time she retired from Platte Canyon High School in 1996 she had added two Master’s Degrees to her CV. She was the recipient of the prestigious Christa McCauliffe Fellowship, an intensely competitive, national award created by the US Department of Education to honor a young teacher who lost her life in the Challenger Space Shuttle Explosion.
Sharon’s exuberance and boundless curiosity for the world around her ensured her family never left a place without first learning the history and the culture of the people around them. She tasted the local cuisine, and learned how to prepare dishes with exotic ingredients and spices she had never seen growing up in Missouri and Colorado. Sharon planned family camping trips to places like the Gates of Troy in Turkey, and bundled up her three young daughters (Marilee, Marilynn, and Mariann) in boots and fur lined parkas to see the famed ice carvings in Hokkaido, Japan. She loved taking her family to explore museums, theaters, local festivals, National Parks and Monuments.
Sharon loved hunting for treasures, knowing they were rarely made from precious metals or gems, and were likely covered in dust and pushed into the corner of a back storeroom. She hunted for rocks, shells, and flowers on shorelines, beaches, mountain trails and river beds like others hunt for lost gold. She combed through used book stores, antique stores, flea markets, consignment shops, and second-hand stores. She miraculously kept these treasures along every move they made, finding creative ways to pack, ship and transport the treasures, both large and small. Oftentimes, this meant Norm was tying one more thing to the top of the car or squeezing one more thing into an already overloaded U-Haul trailer. Sharon’s professional and academic resume was as lengthy as it was diverse. She worked as a legal secretary, an interior designer, national intelligence researcher, and art gallery manager. She worked as an artist in a living history farm called Conner Prairie and tried her hand as a licensed real estate agent, all before her 45th birthday.
Regardless of where she worked or lived, Sharon’s devotion to her family dwarfed all else. In 1980, she, Norm and their youngest daughter moved back to Colorado after the sudden death of her brother, Ed Flinn, which was almost immediately followed by news that her father, who recently retired as a Journeyman carpenter, was terminally ill. She stayed by her mother’s side as the only father she had ever known succumbed to lung cancer; then again, when her mother suffered the same fate only a few years later.
Sharon’s love of living, learning, teaching, and working powered her resilience and was a source of strength to anyone who spent time with her. Her passion and curiosity was contagious. Her unshakeable belief in her own ability to succeed meant she believed in anyone’s ability to succeed. She was living proof that hard work, faith, good humor and a little bit of Irish luck can take you anywhere you want to be.