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Jane Price Sharp – a selfless life

Pocahontas Times file 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
Pocahontas Times file 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

MARLINTON, W.Va. — 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.

The 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

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….


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