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Sharon F. Peters

January 16, 2012|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
  • Sharon Peters stands in the garden at Pathways School in Silver Spring, Md. The garden was created in honor of her many years of service as the school's chief executive officer.
Submitted Photo

SHARPSBURG, Md. — David "Dave" and Sharon Peters celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary on Dec. 3, 2011.

Both were Midwestern transplants to the Washington, D.C., area and, "on a lark," each decided to try out a computer dating service in 1966, using bulky computer punch cards.

Dave said he was given a list of 10 names and he went on dates with nine of them.

"She was the best one of them," he said of Sharon.

Their Midwestern roots provided a connection, and Sharon later told him that the Easterners she'd dated tried too hard to impress her.

"On our first date, we took a ride in the country. I guess that impressed her. I was a cheapskate more than anything," Dave admitted.

Their first date was in March 1966 and they got married in December of that year.

"We figured we were right for each other," Dave said. "We stuck together 45 years."

They were hoping for many more anniversary celebrations, but the day after celebrating a granddaughter's birthday in Germantown, Md., Sharon didn't wake up to enjoy the breakfast Dave cooked for her every Sunday.

An autopsy revealed an enlarged heart and one artery 70 percent blocked, either of which the family was told could have caused her death. Sharon's father had died suddenly at age 66 "from probably the same thing," Dave said.

Sharon had survived breast cancer six years ago and was in remission.

A copy of the Christmas letter Sharon wrote this year, proudly sharing accomplishments of her family, was included in her funeral program. She already had shopped and wrapped gifts for the family.

Instead, the family's last holiday gathering with Sharon was Thanksgiving at the Sharpsburg log home she and Dave built. When the oven stopped working on Thanksgiving, their neighbors graciously let them use theirs.

The Peterses have one son in Germantown, Md., two daughters in Richmond, Va., and six grandchildren.

Sharon Fitch was born in upstate New York and her family moved to Indiana when she was 8. She graduated from Hanover College in Indiana with majors in math and history, and moved to Washington to teach junior high math.

Dave grew up in a small town outside of Omaha, Neb., and graduated from the University of Nebraska. A certified public accountant, he was a management trainee with the General Services Administration in Washington when they met. He now has his own accounting practice in Sharpsburg.

The Peterses moved to Sharpsburg in December 2007, where they built a log home on a one-acre lot about two miles from Antietam National Battlefield. It was the site for family gatherings, and this past summer, Sharon and Dave hosted their five grandchildren for "Cousins Camp," with assorted tents dotting the property.

"She was always part of what we were doing as kids," wrote Laura Peters, the second of the Peters' three children, whether as a Brownie leader, going on field trips or teaching Sunday school.

In the late 1970s, Sharon felt a calling to the ministry. She studied at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, and was ordained in December 1984.

"She was surprised herself when she was feeling led that way," Dave said. "She didn't expect it."

After her ordination, Sharon served as a parish associate at her home parish, Northwood Presbyterian Church in Silver Spring, Md., and was interim director of pastoral care at Children's Hospital Center.

From 1985 to 2007, Sharon was chief executive officer at Pathways School in Silver Spring, a school for emotionally impaired students, Dave said. He said the school grew from eight students to 150 students during Sharon's tenure.

Sharon officiated at weddings and funerals, and led worship, preaching for pastors when they were away. Her ability to laugh at herself came in handy, especially when it came to directions.

One Easter Sunday, she was to preach at a church in Bladensburg, Md., near Washington. Her family drove separately, and when they arrived before Sharon, they knew she was lost.

She had inadvertently driven into Washington and found her way back to the church in time to join in the singing of the first hymn.

"Sharon's internal GPS was faulty, but her spiritual GPS was highly synchronized," Dave said.

In her retirement, Sharon was chaplain at Fahrney-Keedy Home & Village in Boonsboro and at Meritus Medical Center. New to Washington County, Sharon was driving in the country when she saw the Fahrney-Keedy sign. They happened to need a chaplain when she stopped to inquire, Dave said.  

A memorial service will be Wednesday at Northwood Presbyterian Church in Silver Spring, which is adjacent to the Pathways School, and Fahrney-Keedy will hold a memorial service at an unspecified date.

Todd, the couple's oldest child, wrote in an email that while he respected his mother's achievements, she was "Mom" to him.

"Still, she was a pastor and it was strange listening to the same voice that told me to clean up my room preach the gospel," Todd wrote.

He said it resulted in an awkward moment at his high school graduation. Sharon had given the benediction, and as Todd crossed the stage to receive his diploma, he was uncertain whether to "hug her or bypass her and just grab my diploma as everyone else was doing."

Laura celebrated her birthday Jan. 11. She said her mother always sent care packages for birthdays, holidays and just as a pick-me-up.

"I've been having a hard time thinking about my birthday today since it is my first without Mom. That's the kind of thing that keeps hitting me about her absence — realizing the things she won't be a part of any more," Laura wrote in an email.

Mindy Peters, the youngest of the Peterses' children, said the image of her mother laughing and winking has stuck with her since Sharon's death.

"My mom was a living example of how to be a good wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. She made sure we understood the importance of duty and giving back to the community," Mindy wrote in an email.

Both Sharon and Dave liked history and joined the Sharpsburg Historical Society and Sharpsburg Heritage Festival committee when they moved here.

"She was an accomplished woman, no doubt, but I miss her a hundred times a day for all the little things she was to our family," Todd wrote.

"Many people commented about her smile," Dave said. "She could light up a room. She was special."

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Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs "A Life Remembered." Each story in this continuing series takes a look back — through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others — at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Sharon F. Peters, who died Dec. 18, 2011, at the age of 68. Her obituary was published in the Dec. 20, 2011, edition of The Herald-Mail.

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