Jane Price Sharp – A Selfless Life

Jane Price Sharp was always dressed for work, except  Sundays when she could be found on the second row at Marlinton Presbyterian Church. Top: Pictured in 1970, she was happy and at home in The Pocahontas Times office.
Jane Price Sharp was always dressed for work, except Sundays when she could be found on the second row at Marlinton Presbyterian Church. Top: Pictured in 1970, she was happy and at home in The Pocahontas Times office.

Jane Stobo Price Sharp, 95, died Sunday, September 27, 2015, at Pocahontas Center in Marlinton, Pocahontas County.  She died a stone’s throw across Knapps Creek from where she was born October 14, 1919, at the Price family home, 1118 Second Avenue, Marlinton. 

Jane Price Sharp copyThe family home sits just above the mouth of Knapps Creek where it meets the Greenbrier River.  She was the daughter of Calvin Wells Price and Mabel Milligan Price.

Mrs. Sharp’s childhood memories included candles lighting the Christmas tree; a little terrier named Squeaky; chasing crawdads and water dogs in the river; ice skating on the creek and, at times, the river; roller skating once Marlinton built concrete sidewalks; her father walking with her up Jerico Road to see the first spring flowers; seesawing with ladders; picking potato bugs in kerosene; roasting potatoes in nighttime bonfires; walking fence rails and railroad tracks to learn balance; hiking to Lone Tree Knob and Kee’s Rocks above Marlinton; horse-drawn sleigh rides by Zed Smith, Jr.; girls’ basketball games at Quinwood, Slaty Fork, Cass, and elsewhere; 4-H Camp at the Marlinton Fairgrounds; the best Fair ever when the race track flooded and they used boats in the Indian Pageant; and that tomatoes were the only good crop in the drought of 1930.

Mrs. Sharp was the valedictorian of Marlinton High School Class of 1936, and she attended Davis and Elkins College.

She married her high school sweetheart, Basil Clair Sharp.  Basil coached and taught school at Hillsboro High School for more than four years after graduating from Davis and Elkins in 1939.  They had three children: Basil Price Sharp, John Calvin Sharp and Jane Rutledge Sharp.  Her husband, Basil, was a soldier in World War II with the 180th Infantry, 45th Division of the Seventh Army.  He was wounded and died December 23, 1944, near Niederschlettenbach, Germany.  Mrs. Sharp never remarried.

On Friday, June 14, 1957, Mrs. Sharp’s father, Cal, walked the four blocks from The Pocahontas Times office, where he had been editor since the early part of the century, to his home for lunch.  There, Cal suffered a heart attack and died at age 76.  He had a 51-year career as the quintessential country editor.  The next week, Mrs. Sharp went to the all-women crew of the newspaper and told them that she would keep it going as long as she could.  She later said that she thought she might be able to last a year, but for more than 50 years she presided over the county weekly made famous by her father.  She made her presence felt in the town of Marlinton, Pocahontas County, and West Virginia in ways different than, though no less significant than, her illustrious father. 

Following the unexpected death of her father, Cal Price, she and her all-women crew never missed a beat in putting out the weekly paper. Pictured at right, l to r: Maxine Dever, Evelyn Withers, Eva Grimes, Stella McLaughlin and Jane Price Sharp. Photos courtesy of the family
Following the unexpected death of her father, Cal Price, she and her all-women crew never missed a beat in putting out the weekly paper. Pictured at right, l to r: Maxine Dever, Evelyn Withers, Eva Grimes, Stella McLaughlin and Jane Price Sharp. Photos courtesy of the family
When Mrs. Sharp took the helm of The Pocahontas Times in 1957, she was trained as an accountant and had done the books for the newspaper, but, like her father, she had no formal journalism training.  Suddenly she had to manage all the details of a weekly newspaper.  At the time, The Pocahontas Times was hand-set, one letter at a time; Cal Price had given up on the Linotype as too cantankerous long before.  The newspaper was printed two pages at a time on a behemoth Babcock flatbed press that squatted in the middle of the Times office’s large main room.

Eventually she expanded the newspaper to eight pages every other week (keeping four pages during the intervening weeks), then to eight pages weekly, and finally to a weekly average of 14 pages.  The type for the extra four pages of the early eight-pagers was set by hand and a single proof was run off on the Babcock flatbed for printing in Lewisburg at the West Virginia Daily News.  Once she began driving to Lewisburg to have the second section printed, Mrs. Sharp always made sure her personal car was large enough to transport the newspapers.  She never drew a line between her professional life and her personal life. Only in the 1980s when the entire newspaper was printed on a web offset press in Covington, Virginia, did she give up her tank-like Volare station wagon in favor of a company-owned pick-up truck.

What is meant by “journalism” at a county weekly has little resemblance to the definition of journalism as practiced at modern daily newspapers.  As editor of The Pocahontas Times, Mrs. Sharp had to manage a constant stream of copy; worry about ad revenue; set type; run the press; sack the mail; take the mail sacks to the Post Office; and even deliver rolls of addressed newspapers to Post Offices from Buckeye south on U.S. 219 to Maxwelton.  When all that was done by Thursday morning, she had to run job work (printing business cards and letterhead on a 1900 Chandler & Price job press); see that the newspaper’s type was thrown back into the type cases letter by letter;  pay the bills and do the books; wash windows; and empty the trash.

JANE PRICE SHARP works with handset type in The Pocahontas Times office. This photo was taken in 1987. Courtesy of Russell Jessee
JANE PRICE SHARP works with handset type in The Pocahontas Times office. This photo was taken in 1987. Courtesy of Russell Jessee
Mrs. Sharp also had a town and a county to promote and a church to support. She served several terms as a member of the Marlinton Town Council. Born into a Democrat family, she was a staunch supporter and friend of many prominent Democrats, including Jennings Randolph, Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller. In 1989, Republican Governor Arch A. Moore appointed her to fill an unexpired term in the West Virginia House of Delegates. She was a founding member of the Pocahontas County Historical Society and one of the founders of the annual heritage celebration, Pioneer Days. She was a member of the Marlinton Chamber of Commerce and a chairperson of the Pocahontas Planning Commission. She also was a member and president of the Marlinton Women’s Club.

On November 4, 1985, a flood devastated Marlinton along with other river towns in eastern West Virginia.  Receding waters left a mud-covered jumble of unusable equipment in the Times office.  At that time, The Pocahontas Times was using Compugraphic typesetting equipment as well as still hand-setting a proof of the front page.  The flood ruined the typesetting equipment and mud clogged the newspaper’s Addressograph address machine.  Mrs. Sharp worked on a manual typewriter by candlelight to “typeset” copy at the home of her nephew, William Price McNeel, who by then was editor of the newspaper.  The flood issue of The Pocahontas Times was a day late, but it provided flood victims with an invaluable sense of continuity and well-being. 

In order to get back to regular production as quickly as possible after the 1985 flood, The Pocahontas Times became the first fully computerized newspaper in the state.  Everything from typesetting to subscriptions was handled on three Apple Macintosh computers, a laser printer, and an Image Writer.  Mrs. Sharp’s career had seen The Pocahontas Times go from being the last commercial hand-set newspaper east of the Mississippi to being the most technologically-advanced in the state at the time.

She served as president of the West Virginia Press Association in 1967.  In 1995, the Press Association bestowed on her the Adam R. Kelly Premier Journalist Award. 

Mrs. Sharp loved tending the family garden on the banks of the Greenbrier River.  Every spring she first planted leaf lettuce and spinach, and she harvested asparagus from the bed that was as old as she was.  Later in the summer, she would freeze corn, and can beans and tomatoes from the garden.  She stored potatoes in the root cellar.  For the holidays, she would make plum pudding from a generations-old family recipe that traveled the Atlantic from England.  She would make creamed chestnuts from the trees that bordered the garden.  Holiday dinners would have upwards of 35 family members filling 1118 Second Avenue.

Jane Price Sharp and her nephew, Bill McNeel, wave to the crowd as they ride through the 2011 Pioneer Days Parade. G. Hamill photo
Jane Price Sharp and her nephew, Bill McNeel, wave to the crowd as they ride through the 2011 Pioneer Days Parade. G. Hamill photo
The granddaughter of the Reverend William T. Price, Mrs. Sharp was born a Presbyterian.  She attended Marlinton Presbyterian Church her entire life.  To nearly her last days she recalled her early Sunday School years in which each week she was given a card with a little picture and a Bible verse.  Later she learned and recited the Catechism.  She served the church as a Deacon and ordained Elder, and was Clerk of Session for many years.  She was a Sunday School teacher and youth group leader.  Every Communion Sunday, she made unleavened communion bread based on her pie crust recipe.  She was a Life Member of the Women of the Church.  Because the Times Office sat across an alley behind Marlinton Presbyterian Church, Mrs. Sharp was its de facto keeper, even though the church usually had a hired sexton.

In addition to her parents and husband, she was preceded in death by her brother, Calvin Thomas Price; sisters, Elizabeth “Betsy” Price Green, Florence Price McNeel, and Ann Price Hubard; her eldest son, Basil Price Sharp; and a granddaughter, Kimberly Ann Sharp. 

She is survived by her son, John Calvin Sharp, Ph.D., D.O., and wife, Jane Poundstone Sharp; daughter, Jane Rutledge Sharp, and husband, Lewis Sharp, all of Marlinton; nine grandchildren; and 16 great-grandchildren.
The family will receive friends at VanReenen Funeral Home Friday, October 2, from 6 to 8 p.m.

Funeral service will be Saturday, October 3, at 1 p.m. in Marlinton Presbyterian Church with Rev. Cameron Harkness officiating. Interment in Mountain View Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Pocahontas County Historical Society, P. O. Box 453, Marlinton, WV 24954.

more recommended stories