Donald “Big Cat” Andrew Sharper, 77, passed away peacefully in the early morning hours of March 9, 2022, in the care of his daughters, at Genesis Village Senior Retirement Community. He was the humble and beloved patriarch of many, extending far beyond the circle of his biological family. – Despite the vicissitudes of Don’s illness at the end of his life, he expressed his faith and trust in salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ.
A resident of Toledo, Ohio since 1967, Don was the second eldest of nine children born to Dorothy Mae (Morgan) Sharper and Nathaniel Sharper Jr. on February 19, 1945, in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana. His mother was an avid educator, learner, and classical pianist; his father worked hard in blue-collar roles to support the family, having served on active duty in the United States Army in Europe. His mother died unexpectedly when Don was 11, leaving her husband to raise the children. Donald frequently referred to the death of his mother, as well as the untimely death of two siblings, as pivotal events that changed his life.
Don transmuted his pain into many constructive and award-winning, passionate projects and activities throughout his life. As a young man, he was a basketball and football player, editor of the school newspaper, and soprano, alto, and tenor saxophonist in concert, Dixie, and marching bands. Don was the 1963 valedictorian of McKinley High School. He enrolled at Dillard University in New Orleans on an athletic scholarship, where he majored in biology and chemistry. Don was subsequently inducted into several notable organizations including Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities. Additionally, Don participated in undergraduate research for the Cancer Association of Greater New Orleans, in 1965.
After graduating from Dillard University in 1967, Don accepted a post as a graduate teaching assistant in biology at the University of Toledo. Soon after, he met the charming and witty
Catherine Smith, who became his first wife. In this union, they were blessed with three beautiful daughters: Donna, Wanda and Cynthia.
In July 1968, Don began his tenure as a bacteriological chemist for the City of Toledo Water Division at Collins Park. He has analyzed and treated Lake Erie water for residential and commercial purposes. – Two years later, he took military leave to serve his country in the Vietnam War. Being the scholar that he was, Don was accepted into the United States Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Newport, Rhode Island. Don is a graduate of the OCS. as a commissioned officer and ensign; he was promoted to Lieutenant JG and served as a communications specialist in the South China Sea aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Columbus (CG-12). Don was one of three African American commissioned officers on his ship from
After serving two years on active duty, Don completed his military service in the United States Navy Reserves until 1975 and was honorably discharged. Don returned to his position with the City of Toledo Water Division until his retirement in 1998. – Don took great pride in providing clean water to the Great Lakes region and considered it an accomplishment major professional.
Don was a family man and clearly loved his children, grandchildren and great-grandson. From a young age until recently, Don exposed them to Christian music, opera, symphony concerts, jazz, blues, soft rock, ballet, Broadway musicals, art fairs, and more. at state and county and community events. In his words, discipline, dedication, belief and commitment to getting the job done were the keys to his success and a fundamental example for his family.
Don was firm in community service and actively sought ways to support a diverse portfolio of initiatives with his presence and financially. A passionate connoisseur of all musical genres, especially jazz and classical music, Don was a life member of the Kobacker Society in support of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra. He has also generously donated to support students attending his alma mater. Other select community engagements include: NAACP Veterans Affairs Committee Executive Council, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, World Jewish Congress, Toledoans United for Social Action (TUSA), American Legion, Ohio Section, Post 888 [20 years] and 335, Beta Kappa Chi National Scientific Honor Society, Lucas County Democratic Party, Toledo Jazz Society, WGTE Public Media, Ben E. Williams Youth Foundation, The University of Toledo Alumni Association, Dillard University Alumni Association, Golden Oaks Society of MUOT Foundation, Medical University of Ohio, The President’s Committee for African-American Recruitment, Retention and Scholarship Support at The University of Toledo Medical Center (formerly Medical College of Ohio), American Water Works Association, Kiwanis Club Toledo, and Braden United Methodist Men.
By his death, Don had won numerous awards and accolades for his leadership in service, including an honorary doctorate in chemistry and cancer cell research and recognition resolutions from the Toledo City Council and the former Ohio Senator. , Linda J. Furney. You can listen to Don’s recorded audio interviews in 2004 on the Library of Congress website for the University of Toledo Veterans History Project.
Donald A. Sharper was predeceased by his parents, Nathaniel and Dorothy Sharper; siblings, Melvin, Nathalina, Dwight, Glenn, Faye, Dorothy and Nathaniel; and his beloved daughter, Wanda Karol (Sharper) Williams.
Donald is survived by his sister, Phyllis (Sharper) Young of Opelousas, LA; Catherine (Sharper) Powell, the mother of his children; daughters, Donna (David) Reamey and Cynthia (Sharper) Snodgrass; grandchildren, Sana, Jasmyne and Jaren; great-grandson, Gregory; very dear friend, Frances R. Williams, and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws and friends of all ages, creeds, races, cultures and religions.
A Celebration of the Life of Donald A. Sharper will be held on Monday, March 21, 2022, with an evening visitation from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., and on Tuesday, March 22, 2022, with an evening visitation at 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. am funeral at The House of Day Funeral Service, 2550 Nebraska Avenue, Toledo. Interment with military funeral honors at Ottawa Hills Memorial Park, 4210 Central Avenue.
Our sincere thanks to the pastors and members of The United Methodist Church of Braden and Church of Birmingham/Calvary Chapel Toledo, Chaplain Tim and the staff of Ohio Living Home Care and Hospice, the staff of Genesis Village and Promedica at Home, and to the many friends and colleagues who showed such compassion and kindness to Don and his family in his final days.
Published by The Blade on March 20, 2022.