Working hard at work worth doing | Granite City News
Teddy Roosevelt famously said, “By far the best price in life is the chance to work hard on a job worth doing.”
When Sharon McRoy died on September 11th at the age of 78, she left a legacy of hard work and success in a business that she loved and knew with all her heart that it was worth doing. Her entrepreneurial career in publishing and advertising inspired those around her, helped countless businesses in Riverbend, and was a role model for everyone she knew about what big thinking, hard work, and pursuing your dreams can do.
Growing up on a farm in Missouri’s Bootheel, Sharon graduated from high school at the age of 15. She moved to Cape Girardeau and took a job with the Southeast Missouri newspaper, but southern Missouri could not hold back her energy and ambitions for long. Always looking for broader responsibilities, she moved to the Riverbend area in the 1960s and accepted a job as a recruiter with the Alton Evening Telegraph.
“At the time, women’s roles in advertising were mostly making coffee and answering the phone,” says her son Eric McRoy.
Sharon had a different vision and set out to make a real career in a largely male-dominated landscape. Her ambition, knowledge of human nature and passion for the local community led to unreserved success in her job and in 1986 she and colleague Jim Seibold left The Telegraph to start their own advertising company. The magazine Today’s Advantage, which they published weekly, served the major cities in the area, eventually reaching 45,000.
Starting a business from scratch can be scary, risky, and dangerous, but Sharon and Jim have adapted and innovated to stretch scarce resources as much as necessary. Cletus Gribble ran Gribble Printing and says Sharon and Jim used a small room in a corner of his shop when they first started. He explains that they have set up an office in a large cloakroom just off the lobby of the print shop. They had a folding table, two chairs, scissors, and a bunch of scrap pens.
“They laid out the advertising copy in the evening,” he says. “It was a no-frills setup. One evening they had opened the door to let in some air while they were working, and a raccoon came in. “
While other advertising magazines fell by the wayside over the years due to the economy or changing business and population demographics, Sharon’s vision and business skills ensured that Today’s Advantage was successful as she adapted the newspaper to the time and customers always to theirs Main focus made. The newspaper was an early adopter of electronic publishing and innovative sales strategies that kept business going despite the sometimes daunting economic headwinds. She kept Today’s Advantage on solid ground during the great recessions of 2001 and 2008, when many other companies didn’t survive.
Rusty Ingram was the Marketing Manager at Alton Memorial Hospital and was Sharon’s customer for over 14 years.
“She always focused on the perspective of our business and that marketing this business could be profitable for both our business and her newspaper,” he says. “She was a competitive person and a straight shooter. And it always adapted and changed over time. “
The respect and admiration she has earned from her customers over the years has resulted from a keen business acumen combined with a genuine interest in people and their companies. Despite a schedule that would overwhelm the average person, she shared her tireless heart with everyone she knew and always had time to help a client or just have a chat.
Carol and Ron Westbrook first met Sharon at The Bridge Church in Alton, which they attended. In describing them, they emphasize their sophistication, humor and friendliness. Carol started dating Sharon for lunch and remembers how much she enjoyed the newspaper business.
“She loved developing and running a newspaper,” says Carol. “It was a passion for her.”
Ron makes a universal observation to anyone who knew her: “She was a real class.”
Anyone who knew her knows that her phone and laptop were her constant companions, mostly in the service of the newspaper. Ron remembers seeing her at his house towards the end of her life.
“She needed oxygen and was in bed, but she still had the laptop with her and read and sent business-related emails,” he says.
Sharon worked until the end of her life and would not have had it any other way. Frank Prager, freelance writer for the newspaper, remembers a conversation he once had with her. “Despite phases of illness and injury, she was always in the office, every time I was there,” he says. “I once asked her why she didn’t take some time off, maybe while traveling. She replied, “I don’t want to be anywhere else. I do it with pleasure.'”
Another key element of their success was their creativity and originality. Janet Hanson, co-owner of Baxter Distributing, says Sharon’s creative ad design was critical to the success of her ad campaigns.
“She could come in, look at something, and know exactly how to put it on,” she explains.
In addition to their business relationship, the two became close friends over the years. “Sharon was a real friend of mine who had been doing the ads for our company for many years,” says Janet. “She was an amazing woman with the ability to see what could be. What others thought was impossible, she saw as a challenge to be mastered. Proof of this was the success of Today’s Advantage.
Sharon loved her son, Eric, and his wife, Leigh Ann, along with their grandson, Drew. Another Church friend, Ruby Blair, shares about Sharon’s love for her family.
“Oh, my goodness, you were the light of your life,” she says. “She was so proud of Eric and his success in the business and always talked about Leigh Ann’s kitchen. She was delighted with Drew’s latest wedding engagement. “
Sharon has had cancer three times in her life and has been hospitalized with a hip fracture in the past two years, but nothing seemed to be holding her back. Blair recalls, “She never complained. Her attitude has always been, “Well, whatever I have to do to do better, I’ll do it.”
Eric recalls brushing aside health concerns: “‘I don’t have time for cancer,’ she said.”
She served as a mentor and role model to her fellow human beings, both in terms of the success she achieved in life and in her attitude and demeanor.
“From the start I could tell she was confident and confident, but she was never snooty or snobbish,” says Blair. “She was always interested in other people and in helping others.”
She was a pioneer in showing that women can not only be equal to, but even superior to, their male colleagues in many situations. Sharon Pratt, co-owner of Remax Realty, highlights the example Sharon has set for other women.
“The way she behaved, the way she dressed, her general approach to business. She was a role model for the women she knew, ”says Pratt.
Pratt had known Sharon for decades and repeated the feelings of those familiar with her: “She was a class of class,” says Pratt. “She loved her job and I don’t think she had anyone she didn’t like. She is sorely missed. “
Sharon’s passion for her job also resulted in a solid work environment for her employees. The employees were like family, with many having long careers at Today’s Advantage. Angie Fulgham worked for the newspaper as a graphic designer for 18 years. “There are so many stories I could tell you,” she says. “Working with Sharon was definitely a team effort.”
Pat Taulbee, the newspaper’s sales rep, shares the respect Sharon has earned and her role model for the entire workforce.
“Sharon started from scratch,” she says. “You have to work hard to start from scratch.”
Legacies are defined not only by the traces one leaves in life, but also by the terrain on which they are traced. Sharon McRoy built and led a large local company for decades that saw economic upheaval and dramatic changes in the community, political and social demographics. She ran a publishing company that not only served countless companies in the community, but also set an example of what an individual can achieve when dreaming big and working hard. The farm girl whose vision and energy brought her into the challenging world of newspaper publishing made an indelible mark on everyone she knew and made a difference in the Riverbend area that will be felt across the community in the years to come.
In Sharon’s honor, commemorative gifts can be found at thebridge.com/give. be made