Sharon Hackworth planned to work as Leadwood’s water and sewer department clerk for just a couple of years. Over 27 years later, she is finally retiring from city employment this month.
“I planned on just working a couple of years,” she said. “I came to work to get out of the house after my kids started school.”
Hackworth and her husband, Larry, were foster parents for many years for babies and children of all ages. They fostered more than 120 children over a 14-year period and ended up adopting five of them.
“It was a great experience,” she said. “I would never trade that. And I don’t see it as ‘giving.’ We gained a lot from each kid. And the parents. I loved working with the kids’ parents.”
Their relationship with the parents was nearly as important, if not just as important, as their relationship with their foster children. Getting to know each parent, including information about their backgrounds and what they needed to learn to become better parents, was vital for helping to reunite the kids with their biological parents.
The Hackworths did whatever was possible to send the children back to a stable and healthy home environment.
“We knew what the kids were going back into when they went back home,” said Larry.
“When you (bring foster kids) into your house,” said Sharon, “… we treated them like they were ours. Even after we adopted, our foster kids did the same things as our kids. If they wanted to take dance (lessons) they took dance.”
Despite the frustrations and sorrows that often come with being foster parents, the Hackworths have no regrets.
“It was the coolest thing we’ve ever done in our lives,” said Sharon. “I wouldn’t trade it for a million dollars.”
Sharon won’t be home alone for very long after she retires mid-month. Larry will also be retiring from his position at St. Luke’s Hospital in St. Louis on April 2, which will allow the Hackworths the freedom to travel and pursue other interests.
When asked where they plan to travel, Sharon said, “No place in particular. We want to be campground hosts, where it’s quiet. Or go down to Branson and work in the shops part time.”
Sharon is also a quilter and an artist and plans to spend some of her free time making quilts and painting.
“I’ve got umpteen quilt tops ready to start quilting,” she said. “I can take my mini-frames with me and I can perfectly well see me sitting in a campground quilting. And I paint, so I can do that, too.”
Sharon said she is looking forward to having more time to spend doing things she enjoys but hasn’t had much time for until now.
“When you’ve got your kids, you just don’t have the time,” she said. “By the time they’re in bed at night, you’re too tired.”
“We’ve raised (a lot of) kids,” said Sharon. “It’s time for just us … I think we were only married a year and a half before we decided to become foster parents, so we’ve not had a lot of time to ourselves.”
The Hackworths don’t plan on leaving Leadwood for good, however, and are still actively involved in the community. Larry is president of the Leadwood Community Betterment Association, which is currently looking for funding to add more playground equipment to the city park.
“We would also like to get a new bandstand for the park that has a raised stage and covered area for tables,” said Sharon. “That would be a fantastic addition there.”
The association also sponsors street dances for West County students, the annual Easter Egg Hunt and the Leadwood Fall Festival. The egg hunt and fall festival both take place at Leadwood City Park.
The Easter Egg Hunt, scheduled for March 26 was, coincidentally, also the Hackworth’s 40th wedding anniversary.
Amy Patterson is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3616 or firstname.lastname@example.org.