Sharon Ann Griner, 81, of Freeport, Illinois, passed away March 22, 2021, unexpectedly and peacefully in her Mesa, Arizona home, sitting in her favorite chair. Sharon was born on January 10, 1940, in Waterloo, Iowa, to Harriet Eloise Copley (dec. 1974) and Edward Hartwick Claussen (dec. 1981).
Growing up in Reinbeck, Iowa, Sharon and her identical twin Katherine Dawn Nelsen (dec. 1990) shared a double bed. During the cold winter nights, they heated books on a grate, and placed them under their quilts for warmth. Sharon described fondly that she and her sister had an overlapping sense of humor and would ‘catch the giggles,’ drawing a sharp eye from nearby adults during choir practice and other inopportune but humorous moments. Sharon roomed or lived adjacent to her twin until they each married. Sharon’s bond with her sister remained a consistent, significant, and joyful connection throughout their lives. Sharon served as band major for the Reinbeck High School Marching Band and graduated senior class valedictorian.
At a young age, Sharon traveled with her sister by train from Iowa to California’s Bay Area, spending summers with Harriet’s sisters, Lylas Hughes of San Carlos and Faye Wharton of Sonoma. She loved the dining car’s tableware, silver coffee pots, and viewing the passing scenery. Throughout her life, Sharon always enjoyed hearing a train in the distance. During summer breaks through college, she worked at the Wall Street Journal San Francisco Bureau and Macy’s Redwood City.
Laughter and kindness helped draw Sharon and her husband Leland Edward Griner (dec. 2017) together. They met as students at the University of Northern Iowa, where she earned her Bachelor of Education. Lee and Sharon married in 1963 and enjoyed camping, drives, gardening, and visiting family. Wanting to be close to their parents, they drew a circle on the map outward from their family’s location and pursued teaching positions within that area. They began in Waterloo, Iowa, before moving to Freeport, Illinois in 1966, where they had two sons, David and Todd.
Together they formed lasting friendships from multiple spheres of life. She recalled one of her warmest memories was a summer attending school in Boulder, Colorado. In later life, Sharon shared one of the ways she comforted herself was imagining her feet under the cold, clear water of a creek where they studied.
Sharon served as a public-school teacher in Freeport School District 145 until retiring in 1992. Sharon’s educational practice focused on English and reading. Early on in Iowa, she was in demand for teaching the German language. For a long time, Sharon taught as part of the Chapter One Program to further the educational opportunities of 8th graders. After retiring from the public school system, Sharon taught adult learning at Highland Community College. Stories students shared of Sharon’s teaching include themes of endless encouragement and being comfortable to reveal their reading skills at any age without judgment. Adult students remembered that Sharon wanted reading to be fun and for students to feel good about class, which is why they came back each week.
Sharon’s love of wildflowers, birds, animals, perennial gardens, and the beauty of a well-kept farm made midwestern drives an adventure. In Arizona, Sharon read books on the flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert and discovered which birds would be passing through on migration and when and how to attract them. In winter, Sharon enjoyed a crackling fireplace and the hot Jotul stove, and in summer, she loved gathering with friends around a campfire to enjoy homemade cuisine, sing and talk.
Sharon decorated her home and classroom for each season, wearing pins for the closest holiday, and visibly enjoyed each season for its qualities. She kept many plants in her classroom to make it a fun environment and because she also enjoyed them. She kept up with friends’ important dates and celebrated them with a card. Sharon loved playing games, especially games of 500 long into the night. Being hospitable was important to her. To enjoy the outdoors and to stay active, Sharon walked daily for decades and got to know neighbors along her route.
Sharon was a longstanding member of the Freeport Church of Christ, and for the past twenty years worshiped at Sun Valley Church of Christ in Mesa, Arizona, during winters. Thank you to both church families for your friendship and caring. Sharon loved singing with you and taking part in all the opportunities for service and fellowship.
Sharon is survived by two sons, David (Tracey) Griner of Lucas, Texas, and Todd Griner (Rex Stinson) of Los Angeles, California, grandson Zachary Griner, and the many friends she bonded with throughout the years who she considered her extended family. Preceding her in death are her husband Leland Edward Griner of Freeport, Illinois, her parents of Reinbeck, Iowa, and her twin sister of Plainfield, Illinois.
Sharon’s wishes are to have no funeral or memorial service. Sharon’s life can be honored by donating to the following: Freeport Church of Christ, 1635 S. Carroll Ave., Freeport, IL, 61032, Phone: 815-235-1008, Email: email@example.com; or Freeport Park District, PO Box 417, Freeport, IL, 61032, Phone: 815-235-6114 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.