At an age when many people start slowing down, retired schoolteacher Sharon Beaumont took a giant leap across the pond.
She left her life in Chicago to start a new one in England at 55. For the next 15 years, she traveled the world with her new husband, James, a professional tour guide. Mrs. Beaumont, 70, died Monday of a heart attack suffered in Chicago while visiting family and friends.
Young Sharon grew up the responsible eldest child in a tightknit Mount Greenwood family. She kept her room so neat, the paper clips were organized by size. Though she occasionally went to an Elvis Presley movie — and she liked dreamy Ricky Nelson on TV’s “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” — Sharon was most happy getting lost in historical fiction like “Gone with the Wind.” She got good grades and was always home at 6 o’clock for dinner, made by her mom, Fran LaVoie.
At Maria High School, she was one of the few girls who never seemed to misplace her chapel veil. The school’s strict order of Lithuanian nuns made students kneel to check whether their skirts were long enough to touch the floor. Sharon always passed inspection. For spending money, she got a job at the Fair Store in Evergreen Plaza mall.
She lived at home while attending Chicago Teachers College. For 20 years, she worked as a teacher, including stints at Maddock School in Burbank and Lawrence School, 9928 S. Crandon. Later, she earned an MBA at Illinois Benedictine College.
Though diligent and hardworking, she had fun, confidence and style. Growing up, she liked the Big Bopper, Buddy Holly, and Bill Haley and His Comets. On school days, she’d sometimes rise at 4 a.m. to make sure her beehive was teased high and neat, thanks to hairdressing help from her younger sister, Lorraine Pawlicki. She sewed her own elegant clothes — more Audrey Hepburn than Doris Day; more little black dress than poodle skirt.
As a young teacher, she selected a spiffy first car — a white Mustang with a black interior. Still, she was a city girl who had grown up using the CTA. To avoid making a stressful left turn, she’d make three easy rights instead.
Her life centered around Mount Greenwood and the south suburbs.
Then she met James Beaumont. Her father, Robert, had made his acquaintance while visiting Normandy with an Elderhostel group. He invited James to visit Chicago. Mr. Beaumont, an Englishman who’d became a tour guide in retirement, took him up on his offer.
“He stayed with mom and dad and met Sharon and that is how the romance began,” said her youngest sister, Michelle Kirk. “They fell in love and got married. She took an early retirement, pulled up stakes and moved to England. I thought she was very brave.”
In 2001, they moved to James Beaumont’s home in Hythe, a harbor town in southern England with easy access to the ferries that enabled them to tour the continent.
At first, she missed celebrating Halloween and the Fourth of July, as well as Diet Pepsi and Hellman’s mayonnaise. Most of all, she missed her family. But James’ friends welcomed her. “It warmed my heart to see how they embraced an American,” Pawlicki said.
To warm up the flat for his wife, who had grown up with the toastiness of central heating, her new husband rose early each morning to tend to the heat.
She enjoyed exploring Hythe. With her open face and smile, she made friends with people she met during her walks.
And she wrote long, descriptive letters home in the beautiful Palmer penmanship she learned in Catholic school.
The Beaumonts went on vacation each September to the wine regions of France. They toured Australia, China, New Zealand, Singapore and Thailand, in addition to Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. She tried octopus, snail and eel. They took an Alaskan cruise.
Each year, she returned to Chicago for an extended stay, which always included shopping at Oakbrook Center and going for ice cream at Rainbow Cone.
Three weeks ago, during a visit home, she suffered a heart attack. During the subsequent days at Advocate Christ Medical Center, she remained positive, asking relatives for news of her nieces and nephews, the Cubs and the presidential election. But after complications, she died on Monday.
In addition to her husband and father, Mrs. Beaumont is survived by her brother, Larry LaVoie, and nieces and nephews Alex, Elizabeth, Katie, Jeffrey, Michael, Brian, Evan, Meghan and Anna. Visitation is 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday at Robert J. Sheehy & Sons Funeral Home, 9000 W. 151st St., Orland Park. A funeral Mass is planned at 11:15 a.m. Saturday at St. Stephen Deacon and Martyr Church, 17500 S. 84th Ave., Tinley Park. Burial is at Holy Sepulchre cemetery, Alsip.