Sharon Hart, pictured in the center, works with several volunteers to move a railroad tie into place in the Danny Woo Community Garden • Courtesy of InterIm CDA

Sharon Hart, coordinator of the Danny Woo International District Community Garden in the early 1980s, succumbed to uterine cancer last month at her home in Palouse, Washington at the age of 75.

Hart had worked closely with Bob Santos then-director of InterIm CDA, the nonprofit which manages the 1.5-acre hillside garden to shape the early vision of the space as a vital active greenspace for elderly Chinatown International District (CID) residents to grow their own vegetables and other produce. 

“She is the reason the garden is as large as it is today,” said Sue Taoka, Hart’s close friend who worked alongside her as an organizer. “Sharon and Bob decided the garden needed to be expanded to accommodate the growing number of garden requests. Bob did the political work and Sharon did the execution, finding rail ties to hold up the hill and getting university students on work study and other volunteers to carry ties, move gravel, and shovel horse manure.”

Taoka continued: “Sharon never let language be a barrier. I would find her in the garden talking with one of the Chinese gardeners with hand signals and mime. They would be having a grand old time and I was clueless. The gardeners loved her because she was always there for them, even when she was telling them that night soil was a no-no!”

Hart was born in Crosby, North Dakota, on a family farm which was homesteaded in 1910. After her father died, Sharon and her mother moved to Rapid City, South Dakota, where she met her first husband, Ron Hart. He was studying anthropology at Michigan State University when Sharon became pregnant with their daughter Jemila. His field work took the family to North Yemen, where Sharon taught biology and math. Hart toured the country with her daughter, becoming one of the first women licensed to drive a motorcycle.

After Ron was diagnosed with cancer, the family moved back to Seattle in 1979 to be close to his parents. He passed away in 1980. In 2000, she met her second husband Dave Tharp in Pullman. The two married in 2002.

Bob Santos, Craig Shimabukuro, and Sharon Hart. Shimabukuro was a garden volunteer and community activist who passed away in 2004 • Courtesy of Sue Taoka

In a statement dictated to Jemila and Dave just before her death, Hart recalled that following her first husband’s death, she was “very, very fortunate” to find the “best job” as garden coordinator in the CID. 

“I met Bob Santos, the best boss that I ever had in my life,” she said. “I will always cherish the lifelong friends that I met in the CID as part of that garden project. We had so much fun and it has meant so much to have known them.”

Taoka added that Hart lived a vibrant and active life. 

“After her diagnosis, [Hart] continued to live her life on her terms. She did yoga every morning,” she said. 

“She tended her expansive garden. She and Dave camped out at the Blues Festival. She ran — not walked — the Bloomsday race in Spokane. She floated the St. Joe River in Idaho, and she gave herself a great 75th birthday party in the Palouse City Park and danced the entire time. She did all this with a wonderful attitude of peace and love. I only hope I have a fraction of her equanimity when my time comes.”

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