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Cheyenne Resident Sharon Widener Died Of COVID-19, Remembered For Love And Loyalty

The family of Sharon Widener

Nearly 500 Wyomingites have died from the coronavirus since April. Wyoming Public Radio's Catherine Wheeler brings us this obituary of Cheyenne resident Sharon Widener.

Widener died on Oct. 29, 2020 from COVID-19. Widener is survived by her two children, a granddaughter, her siblings and extended family. Widener's daughter and son-in-law Elizabeth and Tim Thorson remember her life.

Elizabeth Thorson: My mom's name was Sharon Widener. She was a native of Colorado, she went to college at the University of Northern Colorado and became a teacher because she didn't want to be a nurse. And she thought those were her only options in 1962. And she taught high school history and social studies for 17 years.

When I was about nine, I think she decided to go back to school. And she went to law school at the University of Denver. She was one of the very few women in her class, although it was a lot more women than there would have been in 1962. She spent most of her three years in law school as a single parent because my stepfather died [during] her second semester of law school. We were all especially proud of her because of that. Then she was a practicing attorney. She did municipal law at the city of Greeley and then Westminster.

When we were in elementary school, one of our rituals was that we would go to the local branch library, and we would get our two or three weeks worth of books. And then we always went to the same Mexican restaurant. And we were allowed to bring our books in and read at dinner. And I still remember this bright orange enchilada sauce, and the three of us with our books at dinner. And it was, it was another one of those, we just do things a little differently. But it's our thing to do together.

She and I and some of our other family went almost every year to Rockies spring training in Arizona. It was a wonderful tradition, and we haven't been able to go back without her. When she was no longer able to travel, we just couldn't face going without her.

Tim Thorson: She went to their opening game at Mile High [Stadium], and then to their opening game at Coors Field. She had season tickets for years and years and years. And that was actually, I think, the last sort of outdoor adventure that we took with her was going to a Rockies game.

Elizabeth: After she retired-about five years after she retired, her health got to the point where she needed a little extra help. So, she came to live with us in Cheyenne. And she lived with us in our house for a little over four years.

Tim: Sharon was like the first person I ever had to take care of. So having your mother-in-law live with us and for us to take care of her that way... I guess it's something most people, I suppose, don't get to learn about their mother-in-law, you know, everything.

Elizabeth: She lost most of her sight. So she did spend more time mostly watching her favorite movies. She could watch the same movies over and over and especially when Tim was working from home. We'd get to the point where we could tell what scene a movie was on by three or four notes of the music.

One of her other favorite movies was Brokeback Mountain. And she loved it for the scenery, for the music, for the story. But most of all she loved it because every time she watched it, she hoped it would end happy. Every time she knew it wouldn't, but she still had that optimistic, everything's-gonna-be-fine, everything's-gonna-be-better-than-fine mindset.

And then she needed to move to Life Care [Center]. And she lived there for almost five years.

Tim: It was fairly early in the pandemic, when Life Care stopped allowing visits. So in the last seven months, at least, we only got to visit one time. They set up a table outside, and it was a windy day, and she was really glad to see us.

Elizabeth: They did a great job keeping the residents safe for a long time. And then they had two staff who tested positive, and one of them was in her room briefly. And then her roommate tested positive. First, she had a fever. That was the only symptom for a couple of days. Then she started to develop some other symptoms. They tested her again, and she was positive. She stayed pretty stable for about a week, I think.

I was feeling a little bit like, 'Oh, we've dodged a bullet.' And she got it. But she's not developing symptoms. And then we didn't dodge it.

And then the next morning, the deputy coroner came to our house, and she had just slipped away. Her heart gave out. She didn't have a lot of resources. She was you know, maybe 90 pounds. And she just, she wasn't able to fight it.

We have not had a service yet. All of her family are over 65 and high-risk themselves. So, we would not want them to come right now to Wyoming. And we would like to do something. She had specific instructions of where she would like her ashes scattered. And we will probably do that next summer.

I think she would want people to understand how their choices would impact their families and their friends. I think a lot of the people who are resisting the public health measures are almost in some ways, seeing themselves as the Lone Ranger against some force. But we're not alone and all those actions reverberate I guess, through all the people around you. And I think she would because she was so fiercely loyal. To the people she loved. She would want people to know that this is not something you want to bring to your family.

Catherine Wheeler comes to Wyoming from Kansas City, Missouri. She has worked at public media stations in Missouri and on the Vox podcast "Today, Explained." Catherine graduated from Fort Lewis College with a BA in English. She recently received her master in journalism from the University of Missouri. Catherine enjoys cooking, looming, reading and the outdoors.
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