Thelma Marie (Sharp) Fitzsimmons was born 100 years ago, on May 21, 1919, on a farm in Watson, Missouri. Thelma loved the farm life, and has many warm memories of those early childhood years.
In 1934 she traveled west to California with her parents Emmett and Bessie Sharp, sister Elsie, and brother Duane. The family arrived in the Patterson area and made their permanent home in Grayson.
Emmett first found work on local farms. Later he took a position with the Westley Irrigation District, where he worked for many years until he retired. During her early years in California Bessie worked at the Old Green Room Café in Westley, which back then was located near the corner of Highway 33 and Howard Road. Later Bessie became the cook at Grayson Elementary School.
Thelma and her siblings worked at various jobs during those early years. They worked at local farming warehouses and during World War II worked at the Tracy Defense Depot. Thelma was always proud of her work efforts during war time.
Thelma’s memories of the early years in California include drives to San Francisco and a visit to the Redwoods. She also recalls attending local dances and barbeques in places like Westley and Riverbank. It was at one of these dances where she met her future husband, LeRoy (Sonny) Fitzsimmons, who played the fiddle and guitar, and sang. Thelma remembers that although her friends thought he was very good, she said, “He isn’t half as good as he thinks he is.” Regardless, love found a way and they were married in June of 1946.
The couple settled in Grayson where they purchased a small house from LeRoy’s mother, which was coincidentally, right next door to Thelma’s parents. Together, Thelma and LeRoy raised six children; Donna, Gary, Ellen, Gaylen, Marilyn and Brenda. LeRoy passed away in 1992, but the Fitzsimmons’ extended family continues to grow. Thelma now has 21 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren. Thelma’s family has always been her top priority. She loved the holidays and hosted family celebrations at her home into her 90s. She is a wonderful cook!
LeRoy, a World War II veteran, worked until retirement as a facilities supervisor at the Tracy Defense Depot. Thelma joined her mother cooking at Grayson Elementary School. Bessie eventually retired and Thelma continued to work as cook for several years until her own retirement.
During their lifetime, LeRoy and Thelma worked selflessly for the betterment of Grayson. LeRoy, with his wife’s support, was a longtime member of the Grayson Community Service District and was a driving force behind providing public water and sewer, parks and street improvements to the town.
Thelma lived with pride for 80 years in Grayson, where her neighbors lovingly called her the “hub” of the community. Then in 2015, due to failing health, she moved to an assisted living facility in Modesto.
On May 18, 2019, many of Thelma’s children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren gathered at her new home to celebrate her 100th birthday. Birthday cake, snacks and wonderful memories were shared by all. Everyone looks forward to her 101st.