Obituary: William R. Sharkey III (1930-2022)

The passing of William “Bill” R. Sharkey III on June 25, 2022, marked the end of an era for the Sharkey family after Bill passed away at the age of 91 at his home in Martinez, California.

Four generations have lived and been active in the Martinez community dating back to 1906. Bill was born August 17, 1930 in Sacramento, to William Richard Sharkey Jr. and wife Dorothy. With his younger sisters Nanette and Christine, Bill moved to Martinez in 1941. His father took over managing the family newspaper, Contra Costa Gazette, later the Martinez News Gazette, after the passing of his father, Senator William R. Sharkey. The family owned the paper from 1906 to 1963 when it was bought by Senator Luther Gibson of Vallejo.

Bill was Managing editor when the family sold the paper in 1963. In 1948, Bill graduated from Alhambra High School, becoming an Eagle Scout that same year. He was also a dedicated member of the Sea Scouts in Martinez. Bill attended Stanford University where he joined Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and the Navy ROTC program. Bill followed in his father’s footsteps when he transferred to College of the Pacific, now known as University of Pacific.

While earning his degree in International Relations, he met his future wife, Barbara (Babs) Cunningham. They married and then graduated in 1952. Shortly after graduation, Bill joined the US Navy and served for 28 years. He deployed to Korea after his basic training, serving in active duty at sea from 1953 to 1955, hauling troops on a Navy transport. The remainder of his service was in active reserves commanding two different training units in the Naval Intelligence program. He retired as a commander in 1976.

Upon completion of his active duty, he joined his wife Babs in Martinez and began working at the family newspaper, the Contra Costa Gazette. He worked as a reporter, becoming editor in 1961 until its sale in 1964. In 1964, Bill started working for Shell Oil Company in San Francisco in Public Relations. He was promoted to Employee Relations, Employment Director of the Shell Oil Martinez Refinery in 1966 where he worked until his retirement in 1991.

He married his second wife Carrol Jeanne Sharkey, “Jeanne”, in 1982. Both were active members of the Navy League of the United States, a civilian organization supporting and advocating for a strong sea services of Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and the US flag merchant marine. He held numerous titles in his 40 year support of the organization. Bill had a heart for service and in his civic engagement, he served on many committees and commissions at the local, county, and state levels. Bill showed his support of local businesses in Martinez while serving on the Chamber of Commerce as Director and Chamber president. He was a 50 year member of the Martinez Kiwanis Club serving a term as Division Lt. Governor and as President. He was involved with the Pleasant Hill Rotary Club for 7 years.

His support of educational institutions ranged from Martinez schools to community colleges. Bill loved living in Martinez for well over 65 years and instilled in his children a love of volunteering and a commitment to giving back to the community in which you live. He never lost his love of writing and reporting on community issues and events. He was an avid follower of all things news.

He wrote a weekly column for the Martinez News Gazette until he was 89 years old covering a broad range of local, national and world politics. He was not afraid to voice his opinion in his weekly column, not averse to controversy, and passionate in his beliefs. He was forward thinking, kind, and wanted more people involved in public service.

In retirement, he took 26 cruises in the various waterways around the world with Jeanne, often traveling with college alumni groups internationally. He loved football and basketball, especially the 49ers and Warriors. He supported his alumni team as well as his granddaughter’s collegiate affiliations.

Bill is survived by his son, Rick Sharkey of Nevada City, daughter, Jane Williams of Hailey, Idaho, and stepdaughter Cindy Kennaugh of Campbell. He’s also survived by four granddaughters and four great grandchildren.

A service to celebrate and remember Bill is scheduled for Friday, January 6, 2:30 PM, Pleasant Hill Community Center, 320 Civic Dr., Pleasant Hill, 94523.

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