Editors Update: The memorial for Sharon Cornish of Hillsboro, Oregon, was 11/12/2022 and was wonderful. The Video shown during the event is inserted below for you to watch. If you read this story, please share it and leave a comment at the bottom. Thank you!
Last Thursday (11/3/2022), I was enjoying a glass of wine in the upstairs bar at The Venetian, trying to unwind from a crazy week. The live music featuring jazz giant Laura Cunard was just what the doctor ordered. Some good friends were in the room, and we had a chance to catch up. During that conversation, I was given the bittersweet news that a highly respected leader and vocal voice of our Hillsboro community, a local giant, had passed away.
I still remember the first time I came into her atmosphere. It was sometime in the 1980s, and there was a land use hearing at the City of Hillsboro. I have no memory of what the hearing was about, but I will never forget hearing that booming voice coming from the table near the podium, asking questions on the matter. The tone and piercing clarity was delivered in such a way that everyone in the room was sure that the woman wielding it was the ultimate authority on the subject at hand. When the questions lacked intelligent answers, or if an answer lacked clarity or compliance with the codes, her response was swift. It often cut through the typical BS and just splayed the issues bare for all to see. That was the day I met an incredibly strong and passionate woman. Her name was Sharon Cornish.
Many of you may have known her or seen her in action. She rarely missed a City Council meeting here in Hillsboro, a town she moved to in 1965 with her husband and kids. She was also a regular at the Washington County planning meetings and court proceedings. She had a keen interest in what was being agreed to and made into law. To the extent that something could be changed or approved that could, in her opinion, harm her or anyone, she was going to stop it if she could. If not, her brand of opposition and disapproval would be felt. And it often was.
Her Daughter Annette Cornish remembers her mom fondly.
“She & Dad moved to Hillsboro about 1965 when I was 4. She wanted out of Southern California. Dad worked for Goodyear Tire & Rubber and transferred from their LA office to their Portland office. They bought the property on Evergreen Road in about 1967 and built a home. Their land was WAY out in the country in 1967,” offered Annette.
Sharon was 87 and almost made it to 88. She lived on the 5-acre parcel and the house she and her husband built all those decades ago, North of Hillsboro. She planned to pass away on her farm, and with Annette’s help, she made that happen excepting the final few days.
Annette expanded on this and gave us some additional testimony about her Mom, who was far beyond someone who just stood up at council meetings.
Her father, Orlyn, was the first Mayor of a town called Pico Rivera, in Southern California. I think that is where mom gleaned her interest in politics and community involvement. She always researched things well and was never intimidated to talk with anyone, no matter their fancy titles or status. Whether one agreed with her position on any given topic, or not, they had to admire her for being involved, engaged and passionate about her community and it’s people. For many, many years she never missed a City Council meeting. She also attended many of the County Council meetings. And, while her own two kids were attending school, she was very involved in the curriculum and their school events. She was a school bus driver for Hillsboro School District for years, then started her own business of interior painting, wallpapering, sprucing up people’s homes and landscaping. She bought and refurbished old houses and started her own small home rental business. She was a 4H co-leader of a large equestrian group called “The Evergreen Riders.” They took several first place trophies in the Hillsboro July 4th parade. She lived her faith by helping people who were in difficult places in their lives. She often would help people, for example; buy beds for their kids, groceries, clothing, pay their rent to avoid eviction. She gave her time often to counsel many people going through personal problems, who didn’t have their own family to turn to. I learned at a young age, I had to “share” my mom, as many others called her their “mom,” too. We often had extra people at our Thanksgiving dinner table who she found in the community who had no where to go for Thanksgiving.
In this 2009 Oregonian Article, we see Sharon, in her own words, describe that her childhood of orange groves and farms was destroyed by developers and the government. She expressed most clearly in that story:
“I’ve seen everything I love destroyed,” she said. “Any time I’ve ever felt comfortable or really happy where I live, I know it won’t last. The government always wins because they can tax you out.” (Read the rest right here: https://www.oregonlive.com/washingtoncounty/2009/12/sharon_cornish.html)
To illustrate how far her involvement went, a local judge told me that Sharon came to a very complex trial that was being handled quite a while back. A woman that Sharon was helping, and all of her kids (58 in total), were involved in family court and custodial matters. At every break in the Court sessions, Sharon would approach the Judge and tell her the positive things that she had done and call her out on the things that were not done correctly and would tell her why. Sharon researched the laws and regulations before she ever entered that courtroom. What a rare thing this is, especially these days.
Her daughter shared one more example of her Mother’s community work:
When the rose garden (Harold Eastman Rose Garden) at Jaskson School Road & Grant was larger, several times in the peak of the hot summer she single-handedly pruned every rose bush in the garden. It took her hours each time, but she loved that garden. She gave the City “heck” when she learned about their plans to change it. She was a member of the Tualatin Valley Rose Garden.
Sharon will be missed. People like her are too rare these days. No one wants to stand toe to toe with government officials and fight for those who can not or do not know what is happening. But it is imperative that we have folks like Sharon because if we do not, we are most certainly doomed. Investigative and community journalism is all but dead. No one is watching the shop anymore. And I guess you can say that Sharon and I share an awful lot in common in our beliefs. I was lucky enough to see her in action many times and meet with her several as well. She was something to behold, and I will miss her and remember her. So many of us will.
To remember Sharon and pay tribute come to:
Fir Lawn Memorial Chapel
1070 West Main Hillsboro
Saturday, November 12th @ 1:00 PM
Graveside prayer following