Cardinals appear when angels are near.
So go now, sit outside and drink your tea.
It is there, your loved one will be.
– Author unknown
Sharon Willis Wooten was selfless, spiritual, and caring, often finding the perfect gift to bring a smile and joy to others. But it was her life that was a gift to us.
Born on Saturday, September 3, 1949, in Owensboro, Kentucky, she was the oldest daughter to Larkin Willis Jr. and Mary Pruitt Willis. She grew up in Indianapolis with her sisters Darlene, Cordia and Lisa and visited her brother, Barry, and extended family in Owensboro, KY regularly. Indianapolis was home until she passed away unexpectedly at the age of 73. Sharon accepted Christ at Emmanuel CME Church as a child. She was also a member of Robinson AME Church, and a recent visitor to St. Luke’s United Methodist Church.
In 1973, Sharon married Billy Wooten, a talented musician who performed with a range of artists, including Smokey Robinson, Donny Hathaway, and Gladys Knight. The couple was married 43 years, until Billy’s death in 2016. From their loving union, Sharon and Billy had one daughter, Pendana, who was Sharon’s best friend. And son by love, Shawn.
Sharon grew up in Indianapolis, where she attended Riverside Elementary School #44, Shortridge High School, and Indiana University Bloomington, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in education. Although she spent many years in the insurance field, working for Farm Bureau, Indianapolis Life and Anthem her heart remained in the field of education, where she began her career as a teacher in the Pike Township school district in Indianapolis.
In 1972, Sharon became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.’s “Too Tuff” Tau chapter at Indiana University. She was elated, years later, when Pendana was initiated at IU Bloomington as well.
Sharon had an enduring love for AKA, both for the sisterhood it brought into her life and for the values of the organization. For the rest of her days, she stayed true to the sorority’s tenets, especially being of service to all mankind. Most recently, she served as a tutor to a first grader at College Park Elementary School in Pike Township, where “Miss Sharon” would spend hours with her student.
Sharon’s favorite “student,” however, was her only grandchild, Jackson. If there was ever a contest for the most time spent with a grandson, she would earn the trophy. Be it basketball, track, piano, tennis, or band, choir, plays, and pageants, “Nana” would be there, smiling, clapping, or keeping score. But she didn’t only root for Jackson. Sharon cheered and celebrated everyone’s kids, often whispering: “I don’t know that kid’s name but let them know I was cheering for them!”
Affectionately known as, Mom, Auntie, Mama Woo, Sis and Nana, she knew the importance of helping people to believe they mattered and embraced everyone.
Sharon was a second mom to many, likely due to three superpowers: loving deeply, listening well, and giving sage advice. You could talk to Sharon about anything, from relationships, recipes, and sports to the Supreme Court’s decision on affirmative action or wellness tips.
She loved barbecues in the backyard with friends and family, laughing and joking, encouraging all children to be their best selves, pushing all adults to live their best lives, and listening to the soulful sounds of her late husband’s music.
When she left us on Monday, July 3rd, Billy’s music softly played on a CD – the last, most beautiful sounds she would hear.
There is a saying by an unknown author that “cardinals appear when angels are near.” Sharon was an angel in the lives of the many people she touched. Though she is no longer here in the physical sense, we know her spirit lives on in the powerful memories of the family and friends who had the privilege of knowing, loving, and celebrating our dear loved one. When you see a cardinal, think of Sharon.
Sharon was preceded in death by her husband Billy, her parents Larkin Willis Jr. and Mary Pruitt Willis, mother in love Mabel Jones, and sister Cordia Wilson. She is survived by her daughter Pendana Wooten-Odle (Shawn), grandson Jackson, Aunt Magelean Leachman, sisters Darlene Barnett (William) and Lisa Willis, brother Barry Johnson (Wanda) and a host of nieces (Shana, TyNeia, Quiasha, Lakinya, Shivon, Trina, Lisette, Tanya, Shell and Samantha), nephews (Gregory, Anthony, Brandon and Cortney and Arian), cousins, great nieces and nephews and other extended family.
The family of Sharon Wooten gratefully acknowledge the many acts of kindness, gestures of sympathy and prayer petitioned on the family’s behalf during this time of sorrow. Our family is most grateful to God for the gift of friends like you. Your expressions of love have given the family strength, comfort, and inspiration in this hour.
In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate contributions to support the 529 college plan for Sharon’s grandson Jackson, who was her favorite student and her legacy. The fund will help Jackson pay for college and pursue his passion for education.
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