Obituary of Priscilla Jean Sheldon
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Priscilla Jean Sheldon, a woman who leaves a legacy of family, passed away after complications of the corona virus, on Tuesday May 12, 2020. She was 84 years old. She was born in Lynn. She was the only child born to Walter and Helen Nix. She grew up in Arlington and was a graduate of Arlington High School. She studied to be a secretary. She worked at Lincoln Lab. She met a coworker, Edward Sheldon, who transferred from out of state to a position at Hanscom Air Force Base and coincidently moved to Arlington and a romance blossomed.
They were married in 1957 and moved to Santa Monica, California and had their first child. Then they moved to Michigan, Ed's home state, and had two more children. Priscilla, longing to be back home, convinced Ed to move back to Massachusetts in 1963 settling in Burlington. She had four children and became deeply involved in the community. Her home was filled with talented athletes and Priscilla managed their home life, practices, games and school activities. Through the family's involvement in Burlington sports, she established lifelong friendships. There were summer days watching the kids at the Burlington Country Club or in her pool. There were many family and friend vacations on the beaches of Seabrook, New Hampshire, The kids swam, played on the beach and the parents enjoyed soaking in the sun during the day and gathering at night. She was an avid golfer and participated in a league at the Billerica Country Club with her girlfriends. Golf eventually became the Sheldon family sport.
Priscilla worked when her children were older as a secretary at Hanscom Air Force Base and for the Law office of Ron Soloman. She enjoyed working and having a little extra to spend on her children, but her real career was that of mother and homemaker. Growing up as an only child, she was thrilled as her family continued to grow with the births of her four children, welcoming her son in law and daughters in law into her family, the births of 11 grandchildren, and soon to be born, a great grandchild. She kept her family close and loved them unconditionally. Her family was what she was most proud of during her lifetime. For that, she considered herself blessed.
Priscilla was the beloved wife of 62 years of Edward G. Sheldon. They made a wonderful couple and loved and cared for each other with great devotion. She was the loving mother of Mark Sheldon and his wife Carol of Burlington, Steven Sheldon and his wife Ginny of Burlington, Stephanie Woodward and her husband Michael of Burlington, the late Timothy Sheldon and his surviving wife Cheryl of Burlington. She was the proud and affectionate grandmother of Jennifer, Kristen, Lexi, Catherine, Ryan, Christina, Paige, Kayla and Olivia Sheldon, Christopher Woodward and Cory Woodward and his wife Michelle.
Funeral services will be private at this time. Memorials in Priscilla's name may be made to the Alzheimer's Association, 309 Waverly Oaks Rd, Waltham, MA 02452, www.alz.org. For obituary, online guest book, and tribute video see www.sullivanfuneralhome.net. Arrangements by the Edward V. Sullivan Funeral Home, Burlington.
Priscilla Jean Sheldon
January 29, 1936 – May 12, 2020
Most of you are family and already know much of this but for some of you, I’d like to tell you about my mother – Priscilla Sheldon.
Before I tell you about her, I’d like to share with you some insight into her family origins.
Her grandparents emigrated from Ireland to the US in the late nineteenth century (approximately 1877 to 1886). We know they were from the Nix, Ballantine and Gannon families. Patrick Nix was born in Coolbaun, Ireland in 1861. Anna Ballantyne was born in Ballymote, Ireland. Patrick emigrated to the US at 16 years old and settled in Providence, RI. Anna emigrated to NYC and somehow also ended up in Providence, RI. (interesting twist of fate)
Patrick was a stone cutter and worked in quarries in RI then Quincy, MA then Hardwick, VT. They had 4 sons and a daughter. One of their sons, Walter, was my mother’s father.
Walter married Helen Gannon in 1932. Walter was an accountant at Ernst and Ernst. They had one child – Priscilla in 1936. They lived in a one-bedroom apartment. Bear in mind, Walter had just served in WW I eighteen years before the birth of his daughter, then thirteen years of Prohibition, the Stock Market Crash in 1929, the Great Depression and unbeknownst to them, about to live through WW II in another three years.
It is probably safe to say that life for my mother back then was difficult. Her high school years were likely the first time when some prosperity finally emerged. Her years at Arlington High were not without some drama. While she was taking driver’s ed classes, she was involved in an accident that damaged the car (I heard versions that the car was actually ‘totaled’) and she broke her leg in the process. Imagine trying to live that story down. For many years after, she would not drive on the highway until we were late elementary school age.
She had no siblings and no cousins nearby, so holidays were spent with many aunts and uncles. She continued this trend when we were growing up. In fact, my Grandfather’s sister, Aunt Mary from Florida would stay at our house from Thanksgiving through New Year’s every year for as long as I can remember. Tim used to give up his bedroom for her and cram into the room Mark and I shared. Mom insisted they come to our house for holidays and she would cook for everyone. Family was important to her.
Dad was born in Michigan in 1931. After graduating from University of Detroit, he worked at a radar site on a programming team for the Sage System (an air defense system) until his entire group was first going to be laid off but then ended up being reassigned from the mid-west to Hanscom Air Force Base in MA. (another interesting twist of fate).
Not only did they both work at Hanscom AFB, but they also attended noon masses during Lent at the Chapel. The story is that Mom needed a ride to mass one day and that is how it all began. Conveniently, when Dad relocated to MA, he ended up moving in with some buddies in a 3 bedroom house………where you ask? You guessed it – Arlington! Now he could have moved anywhere……Bedford, Lexington, Waltham……but he landed in Arlington. Dad said he and Mom ran into each other at house parties in the Arlington Heights area. (I don’t know about you…….but I can’t seem to get this four-letter word out of my thoughts – FATE)
So yes, these two were destined to be together. And that they did for the next 62 years. So here’s the timeline for you – Ed, as he likes to say……….’a hayseed from the mid-west’ moves to Arlington in January 1957…….they were engaged in April 1957……..and married in November 1957.
A quick word to my kids, you are not allowed to seek any advice from Grampy about what a reasonable courtship should be……understood!!
Our lives growing up were packed with practices, games, places to be…… as you would expect with four kids. We grew up in a neighborhood with new homes, young families, and lots of other kids our age. We signed up for baseball, hockey, figure skating, dance, and so many more things I can’t name them all. Saturday’s were a logistical nightmare. Come to think of it, not much has changed in a generation.
I remember a funny story when I was 12. I was playing PeeWee hockey and our coach was a bit overzealous. He thought it would be a good idea to schedule three games on New Years Day. We started out with an early morning game in Rhode Island, an afternoon game in Fitchburg I think, and an evening game back in Burlington. There must have been other carpools that Dad was assigned to so Mom and I got a ride with one of my teammates. I was all dressed and ready to go, our ride was in the driveway at 6:30 AM tooting the horn, but Mom was sound asleep upstairs after what must have been a long night of ringing in the New Year. I had all I could do to convince our ride not to leave without us and wake up Mom and get out the door……..which we eventually did. As a kid, I’d call that day a success……we played 3 hockey games and won all of them. Mom would probably have called it something entirely different and likely gave Dad an earful on what she thought of my coach.
Some of our best memories came during the summer when Mom and Dad rented a cottage right on the beach at Seabrook. They packed two cars, must have looked like the Beverly Hill Billies, every pot, pan, fork, lobster cracker, towel, etc. came with us. Mom couldn’t be without all her stuff to cook with. There were so many fond memories of these vacations. I still laugh thinking about them today. In fact, I remember these times vividly, and that’s a good thing. Our cousins on Dad’s side from Michigan would visit with us and I’m sure they didn’t enjoy driving 700 miles but they did get to experience the ocean and surf and would bet their memories are just as lasting.
I’m not sure if we understood how good we had it that our mother enjoyed cooking so much and was a highly proficient seamstress. She designed and made her own clothes including some of the dresses she wore to our own weddings. She made all the curtains and drapes in the house. I thought every mother did this. Like many things in life, you have to move from the comforts of the home you grew up in to gain perspective.
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the role Dad played in Mom’s decline the last few years. Aside from the physical ailments that you expect could happen as you get older, she suffered from Dementia. Not living with us, we noticed the forgetfulness at family get togethers but as time went on, it became much more evident and frequent and frankly hard to miss. Dad knew as it progressed, it would be challenging to care for her. He never said this, this is my supposition, but he must have decided that the best thing he could do for her was to take care of her at home, shield her, as she was most comfortable with him, familiar surroundings, his voice, his touch, and with his care. I don’t blame him, he’s known her since she was 21. I commend Dad for his commitment to Mom all these years but in particular……..these last few years. To make things more difficult, Dad has experienced his own illnesses and setbacks, but he hasn’t wavered in doing what he thought was best for Mom and doing what he thought she would want for herself too. So……Dad – thank you!
In closing, it’s hard to imagine but…….they spent ¾ of their lives together. They raised 4 children, were blessed with 11 grandchildren and Mom almost got to see her first great grandchild who is due in July. They were lucky to have found each other and we were lucky to have both of them in our lives for so many years. Mom was a blessing and we were the recipients of that. She put a priority on family, getting together to celebrate life’s achievements and milestones whenever the opportunity arose, and was just as comfortable kicking back for an impromptu libation even if it wasn’t 5:00 O’clock.
At times, these celebrations were challenging, as we siblings started our own families. We agreed on a rotation of spending alternating holidays with Mom and Dad and our own in-laws. Mom had a not-so-passive way of falling out of this rotation at times. BUT…….this was her to the core. She wanted us around all the time. Stay for dinner, stay the night, stay for no reason. I wonder if she was just more prescient and had a better sense of how quickly time passes than we did. If I am honest with myself, I didn’t get this 20 years ago, but I understand it now.
So….even though we mourn her passing today, this sadness will go away. There is a saying written on our kitchen wall from a famous literary figure – Winnie the Poo……….it’s been there since just after February 2015…….it says……..”if there ever comes a day when we can’t be together……..keep me in your heart…….I’ll stay there forever!”
Her memory and spirit will always be with us.
Edward V. Sullivan
43 Winn Street
Burlington, MA 01803
Ph: (781) 272-0050