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BY SHARON WOOLUMS | For 30 years, Maura Prince Sharman has been one of my dearest friends. She knew how to be a friend, always looking for the joy and humor in situations, but was always present for the dilemmas too. I always came away with something beautiful, something from her heart. She had a purity and an innocence despite her 61 years. She was kind but had no patience for guile or meanness.
An avid reader, she devoured it all — life, music, dance, art, literature, history — and then her brilliant creative mind would connect the dots — her very own polka dot dance with reality uniquely hers. Our hours-long conversations were a trip, a trip around the world — Maura’s world. Her mind was vibrant and alive, seeking her truth — a truth she spoke beautifully, forcefully, but always gently. Her smile was infectious; her laughter hung in the air long after she was gone. She had the sweetest, kindest tone to her voice, like music hitting the chords of love and laughter.
Born on March 14, 1951, in Brookline, Mass., Maura was adopted by a Portland, Maine, couple, the Princes, both of whom died when Maura was 12 years old. A Catholic, she attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Dover, New Hampshire, where she met her future husband, Brent Sharman, at a school dance.
Brent remembers, “Maura was the most unique young woman in town, and the prettiest girl ever. Her wonderful sense of humor made fun of herself, never of others. With that shine in her eyes, people would melt in her presence. She had the ability to remind everyone that we are all God’s children, and nobody is better than anyone else.”
Maura graduated from St. Dominic’s High School in Manchester, N.H., and moved to New York City to marry Brent. Active in the anti-Vietnam war movement in the early 1970s, they became part of a politically active collective at the Washington Square Methodist Church (a.k.a. “The Peace Church”). Maura had a special fondness for Grace Paley and Karl Bissinger of the Greenwich Village Peace Center. She was inspired by these icons of the peace movement, who took time to nurture and teach Maura and other young activists there. Maura became church secretary, coordinating conferences, concerts and events.
Even though Brent and Maura separated in 1975, they remained lifelong close friends.
Maura worked for an environmental activist law firm. Later she obtained her social work certification from CUNY and became a substance-abuse counselor. For the next 15 years, Maura devoted herself entirely to this job, sharing her warmth, love and intelligence with her clients and colleagues. As a special and caring professional at A.C.I., Maura campaigned against the trend toward “managed care,” which she pointed out translated to less care and inadequate treatment for the clients. She agonized over this and often worked longer hours to compensate.
Maura traveled widely and, Alan Baxter, her roommate of 23 years, was always awed by tales of her adventures, escapades and journeys, especially those in the turbulent ’70s. She lived in an Israeli kibbutz in 1971, traveled to Cuba in 1975, to England as well, and just two years ago, Maura escorted her close friend Tom Santoro to Paris for his one-man art show. He credited her with this important show because of her encouragement and care in developing his talent.
Our beautiful friend was in a coma her last days — her lifeless body hanging in the balance. Maura, living only three blocks from St. Vincent’s Hospital, and as a healthcare provider, protested its closing. We who loved her wonder if St. Vincent’s had remained open, would our friend be with us now. We pray for neighbors whose fates may someday depend on every second that may determine life or death. Despite such a danger, in the meantime, Maura would wish us all to still smile, fight for what’s right and live life to the fullest.
Maura passed away Oct. 23. Her funeral service, originally scheduled for Oct. 29 at Provenzo Lanza Funeral Home in the East Village, because of the storm was held in Brooklyn at the International Funeral Home on Nov. 5. She was buried at Rosedale Cemetery, in Linden, N.J.