Barbara Sharkey
Barbara Sharkey

BEAVERTON — She was the oldest alumna of the Beaverton school begun by the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon. Barbara Sharkey died July 30 at 103 at Maryville Nursing home, on the grounds of her alma mater, where she graduated when Herbert Hoover was president.

Relatives say Sharkey was crossing herself frequently during the last hours of her long life. A memorial Mass was held at Maryville Nursing Home Chapel.

In the spring of 1924, 14-year-old Barbara Benson would walk a mile and a half from the family homestead to St. Mary’s Institute — now called Valley Catholic School.  

Barbara was also the only member of her class of four who was not a boarder at SMI, a large yellow wooden building that would close in 1930 after the new convent was built.

In the late 1920s, all but one of Barbara’s teachers were Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon. More than 80 years after her commencement, Barbara still remembered teachers like Sister Pulcheria, who felt like a mother. She graduated in 1928, and began nursing school at St. Vincent’s Hospital that September. She went on to make a 27-year career of nursing, and retired from Providence in 1977.

In 1933, she wed Fred Sharkey at Immaculate Heart Church in Portland. The Sharkeys, who spent their honeymoon “attending a movie at the Egyptian Theater off Union Avenue,” moved to a house on Salmon Court in Southeast Portland. The couple raised their only child, Suzanne. In 1963, just shy of their 30th wedding anniversary, Fred died. Barbara, who never remarried, found renewed purpose in ballroom dancing classes.

While living most of her life in the Portland area, Sharkey was well-traveled. She went to Hong Kong, Singapore, Portugal, Spain and France, among other destinations.

Suzanne Sharkey described her mom as her best friend who took off work to spend time.

In 2005, Sharkey, who had been living alone in the family home for more than 40 years, returned to the Sisters' campus and moved into Maryville Nursing Home.  Sharkey took communion daily in her room and attended Mass at Maryville as often as she was able.

Information from an article in the Winter 2010-11 Spirit magazine.