Bill Sharon, longtime activist, code officer and co-founder of the Pottstown Pet Fair, died Monday at Pottstown Hospital after taking ill at his King Street home. He was 73.
Sharon was born in Pottstown to Katherine and Edward Sharon and was raised at 26 Walnut St., according to his sister, Mary Ann Elliott.
Elliott, who like everyone in her family referred to Sharon as “Butch,” said her brother graduated from Pottstown High School in 1963.
Although known for his advocacy for animals in later life — these days he was known around Pottstown, much to his delight, as “the cat guy” — it was not always that way, his sister said.
“When he was young, he liked growing flowers and in the mid-60s, he and my dad built a greenhouse at the rear of the property so he could grow African violets and orchids,” she said. “But the flood from Agnes swept all that away. The water stopped two inches from the second floor of our house.”
After high school, Sharon was drafted into the U.S. Army and served for two years, stationed at Fort Hood in Texas.
Sharon worked for many years at Stanley G. Flagg Brass in West Pottsgrove until it closed in 1997. Elliott said Sharon also worked in the shoe department at Arlen’s Department Store in the North End and at Bradley’s in the Coventry Mall.
Long an advocate for Pottstown’s revitalization, Sharon got his chance to participate more directly when he was hired by what is now known as the Pottstown Licensing and Inspection Department as one of the first members of the borough’s “Clean and Lien” program, which did basic property maintenance at unsightly homes.
For many years, Sharon was a volunteer with the Town Watch citizen crime patrol and was named “Person of the Year” by the Pottstown Rotary Club in 2011.
In recent years, Sharon became involved in animal rescues, cats in particular, and at one point had more than a dozen cats living in his home.
A 2015 profile in The Mercury quoted Sharon as saying “20 some years ago a black cat came in my yard and it became part of my family. Unfortunately it got poisoned and I had to put her to sleep. And then it just happened. I thought after that, ‘I want a cat,’” he said. “Then I had three cats, then four cats … They all have a story and it just happened. Then I started getting involved with people who are into animal rescues.”
Sharon helped cat rescue groups, CAT NAPS in particular, and was an advocate for capturing feral cats to spay and neuter them.
He was also co-founder of the Pottstown Pet Fair, which will be held Sept. 15 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Memorial Park for the eighth year.
Fellow animal advocate and Pet Fair co-founder Karen Lewandowski, who worked with Sharon in borough hall, said this year’s Pet Fair will be dedicated to Sharon’s memory.
The fair would not have happened without Sharon, who “pounded the pavement and got all those vendors. He talked to every person he knew east of Albuquerque,” Lewandowski said.
The first year featured eight sponsors and recent events featured as many as 125.
Lewandowski last spoke to Sharon on Saturday.
“I knew something was wrong. The spark seemed to be gone and he made my promise I would keep the pet fair going.”
Sharon could be very persuasive, she said.
“I’m allergic to cats and he talked me into adopting a cat. I said ‘why Bill?’ and he said simply ‘because it’s hungry and doesn’t have a home.’ The next thing you know it’s brought a girlfriend, I had them both fixed and the darn thing is living in my garage,” she said.
“He always said he wanted to make Pottstown pet-friendly. He was the only person I know who got up and went to work with cat food in his pockets. Those cats would follow him around town because they knew,” she said with a laugh.
“It’s a sad day for Pottstown,” Lewandowski said. “He was so dedicated to this borough. Pottstown won’t be the same without him.”
Elliott said she had long urged Sharon to “write down all the things he had done in his life for my grandson, he did so much.”
Sharon had fallen recently and cut his leg. He was taken to the hospital and it was discovered he had a blood infection, said Elliott. “He spoke so highly of the people at Pottstown Hospital.”
While in the hospital, it was discovered that one of Sharon’s heart valves was faulty and he needed surgery, but first the infection had to be staved off.
“We had turned a corner and he came home but it came roaring back with a vengeance,” said Sharon’s brother-in-law Dennis Elliott, who was the one who found Sharon unresponsive at home in his bed.
“I called 911 and began CPR with the operator counting off for me until the EMTs arrived,” he said.
Sharon died later at Pottstown Hospital.
Arrangements will be by Catagnus Funeral Home, but specifics have not yet been announced.
“He had just put a new roof on his house and gotten the plumbing straightened out and had a fence put up,” said Sharon’s sister. “Next he was going to get all new electric put in. He had so much he still wanted to do.”
In the 2015 profile, Sharon told The Mercury that his dream after retirement was to devote all his time to rescuing cats and maybe even turn his home into a shelter.
“Right now my involvement in this is part time. When I retire, with whatever time God gives me, this is what I want to do. Trust me. I’m not interested in cruises, I could care less about a golf course, I could care less about sitting at a country club talking about my money and all that. There’s nothing in the world I want to see,” Sharon told the paper.
“Pottstown and the surrounding area is just fine with me. Whatever time I have left, this is what I want to do,” said Sharon.
He is survived by his sister Mary Anne Elliott, wife of Dennis; niece Kim Acito, husband of Jim and great nephew Ethan Acito. Also surviving are several cousins. Along wit his parents, he is predeceased by his sister Elaine Sharon.
A funeral service will be Saturday, Aug. 11, 10:30Am at Catagnus Funeral Home & Cremation Center, Inc., 711 N. Franklin Street, Pottstown. Burial will follow in Highland memorial Park. Visitation will be Friday evening from 6PM to 8Pm and on Saturday from 9:30Am to 10:30AM at the funeral home.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Bill’s name to CAT NAPS of Pottstown, PO Box 453, Gilbertsville, PA 19525 or Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, 1236 Juniper St, Pottstown, PA 19464.
Credit to Evan Evan Brandt, Pottstown Mercury, Wednesday Aug. 8, 2018