A lifelong campaigner with a fascinating personal history approaches 100

A lifelong campaigner with a fascinating personal history approaches 100

Despite turning 100 in a week’s time (April 22nd) Connie Sharman remains a stalwart supporter of the Leamington, Warwick & Kenilworth branch of Save the Children which she helped establish in 1959.

She has turned her hands to many fund raising activities in the intervening 45 years and  has set herself the target of raising £5,000 during her centenary year, with £837.73 having been donated to date via www.justgiving.com/connie-sharman.

Since its inception it is estimated that her local branch has raised close to £500,000 – £280,451.59 since the introduction of computerised records in September 1988.

2013 was a record year from the branch, with £25,166.59 raised.

Her centenary will be celebrated with no fewer than four parties, the last of which is to be on Tuesday 29th April when her fellow Save the Children volunteers will pay tribute to her.

When her family asked her what she most wanted for her birthday she replied “I don’t really need anything. Just the smile on the face of a child and Save the Children will do that” which encouraged them to support her fund raising efforts.

About Connie by her daughter Judy

Born in New Jersey in 1914, the avid campaigner moved to the UK (and Leamington Spa) in 1954 at the time of her marriage to Englishman Eric Sharman.  She has been here ever since.

The year was 1914. World War I breaks out, Henry Ford introduces the assembly line for the Model T, and Cornelia Messler,  my mother, was born in Trenton, NJ.  Her birth was announced via telegraph.  Today she Skype’s via smart phone with her family and friends across the world.

She’s turning 100 on 22nd April.

Her given names are Mary Cornelia and when it was reported, a friend of the family who was a little hard of hearing, said “American Eagle?  That’s a funny name for a baby”. She’s Mum to me but has many nick names and is now Connie Sharman to most.

Connie spent her  first 40 years in New Jersey until my father Eric Sharman, over in the USA for a work project, met her and whisked her back to England, where she has now spent the second half of her life.

She was one of the founders of the local Leamington, Warwick & Kenilworth Branch of Save the Children and has volunteered with the charity for 54 years.

She has met Princess Anne on several occasions, including most recently in 2005, when she received the “Award for Distinguished and Meritorious  Service for 45 years devotion to the charity and as an inspirational ambassador in her local community”

A few years ago we were watching a documentary on scientists during the 1940’s with Oppenheimer, Eugene Wigner, Niels Bohr and others. “I met many of them” she casually commented.  Connie’s job was draft deferment for scientists for a “top secret” project, which turned out to be the atom bomb.

She campaigned for FDR’s reelection in 1936 when she was at SkidmoreCollege.  This picture shows her pointing at herself when she attended her 70th College Reunion! Skidmore 2007 pointing at herself in 1936 (1)

Compared to any other hundred year period in history, the changes that have taken place from 1914 to 2014 are unprecedented.

Connie remembers lighting a gas lamp in her bedroom and now she turns on the switch for LED lights in her living room.  She’s seen the horse and buggy as the main form of transport go to commercial airline travel, and watched the first man land on the moon on her black & white television.

She’s seen Prohibition come and go, the end of segregation with the Civil Rights Movement and her first job involved programming a computer the size of a room with punch cards.

When our electric kettle recently died, I commented we’d had it since 2009 so it’s been over 5 years. She wasn’t impressed “they don’t make things like they used to, should last a lot longer than that”. That’s the generation that went through the Depression.  Value what you have. Make do or do without.

Her secret to longevity?  Contentment – not getting overly excited or sad. Always having a goal. Being open to new things and embracing all that life offers.  She works on the computer, sends emails, Googles things when she wants to know the answer.

She eats well,  avoids medications (including Warfarin/Coumadin) by taking nutritional supplements.  Perhaps the scotch she has with dinner helps too!

She says she has had a very lucky life.  She is certainly my inspiration for a happy and healthy life.