Sharon Elizabeth Callaway Knechtel of Dallas, TX, went peacefully to her heavenly home on the morning of Friday, January 29, 2021, a day before her 77th birthday and with family by her side, following her long struggle with Alzheimer's disease.
Sharon was born on January 30, 1944, in Portsmouth, VA, to Reverend Merrel Price Callaway and Elizabeth Fountain Callaway, whose missionary work took the family to the Middle East when she was a young child and to North Africa when she was a teenager. Following her mother's passing from Leukemia shortly before Sharon's 10th birthday, Sharon and her three younger sisters lived for three years with their maternal grandparents in Chatham, NJ, until her father met and married Arlene Jensen Callaway, also a missionary. Merrel and Arlene welcomed twin daughters, thereby making Sharon the eldest of SIX girls! In 1962 Sharon graduated high school at Ben Lippen School, a boarding school in Asheville, NC, where she enjoyed working on the school's newspaper staff. She was an avid reader and loved classical music and the arts from a young age.
While spending her 1961 Easter Sunday holiday at the Lookout Mountain home of her parents' friends in Chattanooga, TN, Sharon met the love of her life, Carleton Knechtel. Carl was born in Brazil - also to missionary parents - and the two met at church through his younger brother Nathan who attended Ben Lippen with Sharon and her sister Susan and was also spending the holiday in town. The pair fell in love during the summer of 1961 as Carl continued to visit Sharon on Lookout Mountain and at the homes of aunts in Knoxville and Waycross and an uncle in Augusta.
Sharon and Carl married on August 6, 1962, in Chatham, NJ, and started their family together in Chattanooga where Carl worked for Kroger first as journeyman meat cutter and then as store manager. They welcomed daughter Carolyn in 1963 and son Paul in 1966. In 1969 the family moved to Knoxville so that Carl could enter law school at the University of Tennessee College of Law while he also worked. Sharon offered Carl her full support for that risky career transition and worked as secretary for the assistant director of the Baptist Hospital near the UT campus to help with finances. Upon Carl's graduation in 1971 and his acceptance of an attorney position in Chicago in the Office of Chief Counsel, IRS, the family relocated to the south suburbs of Chicago where they lived until 1987, welcoming daughters Susan in 1972 and Kathryn in 1974. In 1987 the family relocated to their current home in NE Dallas where Carl continued to advance in his legal career with the IRS. For four years Sharon worked as office assistant to a psychiatrist and was so loved by patients that many arrived to their appointments early just to spend time visiting with her. She then worked as a secretary for the IRS for more than a decade. During her time in both Chicago and Dallas, Sharon forged deep and long-lasting friendships with neighbors and with friends she met at church, including in her Sunday School class at The Heights Church in Richardson where she was a member for more than 30 years.
During their working years in Dallas and into their retirements which began in the early 2000s, Sharon and Carl enjoyed taking countless road trips across the country to visit their large extended family, including return trips to their first home in Chattanooga which became a retirement home for Carl's parents, to Charleston for reunions at the Callaway family cottage, and to Atlanta, Chicago, Austin, and Boise. They also continued a Rook card game-playing tradition that began with a close-knit group of friends during their time in Chicago by celebrating annual "Rook reunions," rotating hosting duties among the couples at their homes in four different states. A lifetime highlight for Sharon was a surprise trip to London with her three daughters in 2004 to celebrate her 60th birthday. That year was also marked as special by Sharon and Carl becoming grandparents. Sharon relished her role as "Gramma" to her grandchildren Cal, Luke, Salem, and Karis. During her more than 58 years of married life, her greatest joy came from her role as a devoted wife, mom, and gramma.
Sharon's life was defined not only by her love of family but by her abiding faith in Christ which she lived out by showing kindness and grace to everyone she met. Handwritten inside her Bible was the quote often attributed to William Penn that reads: "If there is any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not deter or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again." Sharon lived out that quote daily with quiet intention. She was kind, compassionate, always ready to see the best in others, and quick to put the needs of others before her own. Sharon was also warm, funny, and fun-loving. Because of her quiet nature her wit was sometimes overlooked, but those who knew her well knew she had a playful side and was always ready to laugh.
Sharon was gracious and welcomed people generously into her home and family. She was a constant encourager, always checking in with loved ones, sending thoughtful handwritten notes, and never missing the opportunity to send birthday cards to friends and family near and far. For many years she spent time corresponding by letter with prisoners to encourage them in their faith through a church prison ministry with which she volunteered. She was generous about sharing her gifts of comfort and a peaceful presence with others. Even as her memory faded and it became more difficult for her to communicate due to Alzheimer's, she never relented in showing small kindnesses to others in whatever ways she could. Those who knew her will never forget how special and loved she made them feel.
Sharon is preceded in death by her parents, Merrel Price Callaway, Elizabeth Fountain Callaway, and Arlene Jensen Callaway; her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Guion Hillman Fountain and Reverend and Mrs. Timothy Walton Callaway.
Sharon is survived by her husband, Carl Knechtel of Dallas, TX; daughter Carolyn Fisher and husband Pat of Dallas, TX; son Paul Knechtel of Dallas, TX; daughter Susan Stern and husband Todd of Flower Mound, TX; daughter Kathy Dunham and husband Jim of Austin, TX; grandsons Cal and Luke Dunham of Austin, TX; granddaughters Salem and Karis Stern of Flower Mound, TX; sisters Susan Anderson, Joy Godbold, Star Good, Margie Pearson, and Martha Whitson and their respective husbands; and a host of other dear relatives and friends.
Sharon's family would like to thank the caregivers and staff at Arden Courts of Richardson, TX, for the extraordinary care, compassion, and love they provided to Sharon and also for the friendship and support they provided to her family.
Visitation for family and friends will be held Sunday, February 21, from 12:00 to 1:00 pm at Lane Funeral Home with guests requested to follow all COVID-19 safety protocols, including wearing a mask and maintaining distance. Funeral service will be held Sunday, February 21, 2021 at 1:00pm with interment at Hamilton Memorial Gardens on Monday at 3:00pm. Arrangements entrusted to Lane Funeral Home, 601 Ashland Terrace, Chattanooga, TN 37415, (423) 877-3524. www.lanefh.com
In lieu of flowers, for those wishing, donations may be given in Sharon's memory to the Alzheimer’s Association or a local food bank of your choice. Arrangements entrusted to Lane Funeral Home, 601 Ashland Terrace, Chattanooga, TN 37415, (423) 877-3524. Online condolences and memories may be shared at www.lanefh.com
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