This is the story of Sharon Kearney, a woman who loved whole-heartedly, read voraciously, travelled extensively and decorated her world with Post-its.
Sharon (Gentilini) Kearney’s story begins on March 26, 1947, in Chisholm, MN when she was born the first child of Venancio and Lillian (Beckman) Gentilini. Sharon grew up in Chisholm and spent many happy days on her Nono and Nona’s farm riding her pony, Ginger (yes, she had a pony!). Sharon attended school in Chisholm, MN and graduated from Chisholm High School with honors in 1965. Following graduation, Sharon attended Hibbing Junior College where she was a Phi Beta Kappa Society member. She would earn an Associate of Arts Degree at, “The J.C.” She then went on to the University of Minnesota Duluth graduating in 1972 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and a minor in Political Science.
In 1970, this Italian girl met a wild Irishman by the name of Robert (Bobby) Kearney at a college dance, he wore her down and eventually, they would marry on July 29, 1972 and spend the next 50 years together. Sharon and Bobby would have 3 children, Stefanie, Shawn (who sadly died at birth) and Jason. “Mother” was Sharon’s favorite and most important title . . .until 1994, when she would become, Grandma! Along with her children, her granddaughter, Devin Rae, and later her new grandson Brayden, would be her greatest joy in life. Her family was her world.
Sharon’s work life began at the age of 12, when she started working in her father’s store, “Vince’s Surplus,” in Chisholm, MN. After working there for a few years, her father gave her a card with the title, “Vice President of Looking Out the Window,” because she would watch her friends having fun out the store window while she had to work. She would work at the store until she was 18, and she put her head for numbers and organization to good use creating a business and operational plan for her dad’s store. In 1972, Sharon would begin teaching at the Cotton, MN school where she taught high school English and History. She was also, the senior class advisor, drama club advisor and speech team coach. But after 8 years of a long commute and much precious time away from her young family, she made the decision to stop teaching. Then, in 1989, she decided to go back to school at Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids, MN where, in 1991, she would earn an A.A.S. degree in accounting, graduating with high honors. A year later, she would begin work at Minnesota Twist Drill working in accounts payable, where she would remain for 30 years, only to retire on Dec. 1, 2022. Sharon loved her job and the many special relationships she made while working there.
Sharon was a first generation American and was very proud of her Italian heritage. She was a long-time member of the Trentini Tirolesi del Minnesota, joining in the early 2000s with her father, Vince, who helped to co-found the club with other immigrants and descendants of the Trentino region of Northern Italy. Every year, Sharon would make her father’s famous sugo for the club’s annual polenta feed. She was involved in many other club events over the years and served on the board in many positions including president.
For many years, Sharon was a member of AAUW as well, where she would be involved in many events and programs put on by the organization and she would hold many board positions including, president and book sale co-chair. Her favorite event by far was the annual AAUW Book Sale. During the days leading up to the sale, Sharon and other members would sort 1000s of mystery books into their section of the sale. She was also in charge of keeping track of the sales and handling all of the money that was made which goes to scholarships for local women and girls. Personally, the book sale was heaven to this voracious reader. Sharon often read as many as 5 books at a time and figured she had read 1000s over her lifetime, many of them more than once. Reading was her peace, her, solace and her escape. Sharon would instill this love of reading and learning in her children and granddaughter and in many nieces and nephews and anyone else she could give a book to; they were her absolute favorite gifts to give.
Sharon also loved live theater in all forms. Plays, concerts, lectures, singers, dancers and everything in between. Going to the theater was one of her favorite pastimes. She instilled the love of theater in her family as well and they would travel all over Minnesota, the country and even the world to see Broadway shows, all star concerts and spectacle events. The shows they attended are too numerous to count, but the memories are priceless.
Travel was Sharon’s greatest extravagance and pleasure. Some of her favorite adventures include, a trip to Italy in 2002, to see her father’s birthplace and meet her extended Italian family and of course, taking time to see the rest of Italy too, a cross-country road trip with her husband Bobby where they made their way through more than 10 states, a once in a lifetime trip to Egypt and Petra, Jordan with her son, Jason, a graduation trip to London and Paris with her granddaughter Devin and 2 trips to New York City with her daughter Stefanie and many other trips large and small in between all of those, including 25 annual North Shore trips with her daughter, granddaughter and husband. And not to forget, “Grandma and Devin Days,” where they would pick a direction and just wander, discovering things they had never seen before. The world was Sharon’s oyster and she took full advantage of its pearls.
Sharon loved babies, red roses, penguins and beef stroganoff. She hated snakes, onions, salmon loaf and dark water, she was a life long learner and was amazed by the world around her, but mostly, she loved her family and she loved sharing all of her passions with them, and they are all the richer for it. Sharon was not a showy person, she did not crave the limelight, but she will leave a lasting impact on all that knew and loved her. The world is definitely a better, and more organized place because she lived.
On, January 8, 2023, Sharon left this life peacefully, having lived a long and happy life on her own terms. She leaves behind her husband of 50 years, Bobby, her daughter Stefanie (Michael) Carlson, of Hibbing, son Jason (Teresa) Kearney, of Duluth, MN, granddaughter, Devin Carlson, of Memphis, TN, grandson, Brayden Boyer, of Hibbing, her beloved sister, Cathy Gentilini of Hibbing, brother Butch (Clairissa) Gentilini of Chisholm, MN, brother Garett (Jim Brox) Gentilini of Dallas, TX, many nieces and nephews and many, many other cherished family members.
Sharon was preceded in death by an infant son, Shawn, and her parents, Venancio and Lillian (Beckman) Gentilini.
Sharon’s story does not end here, it continues on in all of those who knew and loved her. “The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.” -Antoine De Saint Expery
The Kearney family would like to extend their heart-felt gratitude to the ICU staff of Fairview Range Medical Center and to Fairview Range Home Care and Hospice for all they did for Sharon and for our family. Words cannot express how much your kindness, compassion and professionalism are truly appreciated. We are so incredibly grateful to you all.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Sharon’s favorite charity, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, in her honor. A celebration of Sharon’s life will be held a later date.
Arrangements are with the Dougherty Funeral Home of Hibbing.