Olive “Sharon” was born Thursday, October 3, 1940, in Toronto, Ontario, to Irwin and Olive Mary (Foxcroft) McKittrick. Sharon was the eldest of three children and was soon joined by Bill and Fred. On the 16th of September, three short years later, Sharon’s father signed up with the Canadian Army. On his Enrollment and Attestation Paper he listed his marriage date as June 10, 1939 and having two children, two years of age and six and a half months. Irwin was assigned to Le Regiment de la Chaudiere, R.C.I.C. Irwin served overseas, was wounded on D-Day and returned home where he lived his remaining years in a military hospital until his death on January 16, 1947.
Sharon’s family grew up in the Oakwood and St. Clair area of Toronto. The family moved many times over the years and Sharon changed schools thirteen times. At the age of eleven, Sharon and her family moved to Smithfield (now Etobicoke) and then later to Thistletown. She attended high school at Weston Collegiate and Vocational School.
When Sharon was just two years old, she met a young boy by the name of Thomas Ernest Burley, who was just a year older than her. Fifteen years later, at the age of seventeen, and while attending Albion Gardens Presbyterian Church, Toronto, Sharon was formally introduced to Tom, and it was love ever after. The couple began dating and was married April 2, 1960 in Sharon’s mother’s home.
The young couple settled in Downsview before later stops took them to Toronto and Brampton. They soon welcomed their sons, Tom (1960), David (1962) and Ted (1964). Initially, Sharon kept busy at home caring for her young family. When her boys were older, Sharon commenced work as an inside sales representative at Thermo Electric in Brampton where she proudly remained for roughly two decades. Sharon and Tom’s boys learned a lot through the example set by both parents over the years. Perhaps the greatest life lesson shared with the children was “Work hard, be dependable, provide for your family – always.”
Later in her career, Sharon attended evening business classes at Sheridan College, while Tom took photography. Upon retiring in 1999, Sharon and Tom were ready to leave city life and begin looking for places to settle down. One was Bobcaygeon and the other Chesley. Chesley won hands-down, in large part because Tom’s sister Audrey and her husband Doug had moved there just a few years prior. In fact, the Burleys remembered several visits to the Walshes, where they enjoyed helping them with their renovations. The couple officially called Chesley home on October 15, 1999.
From the moment they moved to Chesley, Sharon and Tom immersed themselves in the community, lending a hand wherever possible. Sharon volunteered with St. John’s United Church, the Chesley Hospital Foundation, the Chesley Hospital Board and the local Rotary Club. In her spare time, if there was any, Sharon enjoyed reading, knitting, gardening and, of course, visiting or entertaining her family. She also collected stamps, Christmas ornaments and books, or shall we say many, many books. In fact, her family recounts she had anywhere between three and four thousand books and the end of her life, many of which she asked to be donated or passed along to friends and family. She enjoyed historical and espionage fiction and her favourite authors included P.D. James, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Jack Whyte, Ken Follett and Robert Ludlam. Although she never played baseball herself, Sharon was a die-hard Toronto Blue Jays fan. She rarely missed a game since the Jays inception in 1976. It was hard to find Sharon without a book in her hand, the Jays on TV and a warm cup of tea with milk by her side.
Sharon enjoyed feeding the birds and squirrels, lawn bowling, Chinese food, the colours black and red, classical music, the bagpipes, gospel hymns and pretty much anything produced before 1975. Watching TV consisted of programs like “Arrow,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Heartland,” and “This Is Us,” in addition to the ‘soapy’ programs. She was known to take her chances at scratch and wins and the occasional one-arm bandit. Sharon enjoyed the south of England, the magical Merlin Caves which pass underneath Tintagel Island from east to west, and Clovelly, a small village in Devon, England. Of course, travelling west to visit McKittrick and Burley families was always a priority for Sharon. In fact, for more than 20 years, Sharon and Tom travelled west almost every other year to catch up with family and friends.
If one was lucky enough to know Sharon, you would also know about her excellent shortbread. Her grandmother started making cakes and shortbread for bazaars in 1925. To make 100 shortbread rounds for Christmas gifts was a customary activity for Sharon and something she loved to do each year. Sharon’s shortbread recipe had been passed down through many generations and is now being practised by friends and family. She loved hosting holiday celebrations and during Christmas, it was not uncommon for thirty to fifty people to converge on the Burley household for a meal or visit, including family, neighbours and friends of her three boys, who she cared for as if one of her own.
Sharon most admired the traits of honesty and humour in others. Willingness to give back, empathy, inclusiveness and kindness were high on her list and traits she modelled in her day-to-day behaviour. She also saw herself as busy, involved and community-oriented and worked hard to set these examples for her family. The two best pieces of advice given to Sharon were “get a good education” and “take care of your money”. Her Mom also led by example as did her maternal grandparents. Their best life lesson? Be charitable.
Sharon’s faith was long and abiding. It sustained her through highs and lows and became a source of strength in the final months of her life. Church attendance was an essential part of her weekly routine and something she enjoyed for roughly three decades. Sharon’s outlook on religion could be seen as progressive. Upon moving to Chesley, she became very close friends with the ministers of St. John’s United Church.
On April 2, 2022 (Sharon and Tom’s 62nd wedding anniversary), Tom passed away. In her mourning, Sharon leaned on family, community and her unwavering faith to help her through difficult times. Sharon had health issues herself, battling breast cancer for many years. Sharon passed away at South Bruce Grey Health Centre, Chesley, on Thursday, December 21, 2023, in her 84th year.
Loving mother of Tom (Joan) of Victoria Harbour, David (Lisa) of Brampton, and Ted (Anna) of Uxbridge. Cherished grandmother of James (Stephanie), Ryan (Michelle), Daniel (Jenn), Eric (Robyn), Matthew, and Josh, great-grandmother of Travis, Gavin, Atlas, Scarlett, Norah, and Samuel, and great-great-grandmother of Markus. Dear stepsister of Tom Nye of Dunsford and sister-in-law of Lillian McKittrick of Richmond, B.C. She will be fondly remembered by the entire Burley family as well as her many nieces and nephews. Sharon was predeceased by her husband Tom, her great-grandson Tyler, her brothers Bill McKittrick and Fred Brinkman, her sister-in-law Susan Nye, and her parents Irwin and Olive (Foxcroft) McKittrick.
Visitation will be held at Rhody Family Funeral Home, Chesley on Friday, December 29, 2023, from 2 – 4 and 7 – 9 p.m. A funeral service celebrating Sharon’s life will be held at St. John’s United Church, Chesley on Saturday, December 30, 2023, at 12:30 p.m. Spring inurnment in Chesley Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations to St. John’s United Church or Chesley Hospital Foundation would be appreciated as expressions of sympathy.