Sharon Kelley and Jim Cook’s flower garden. ~ Revelstoke Review file photo

Personal Histories: Jim Cook & Sharon Kelley

Jim Cook & Sharon Kelley talk about their public flower garden and more

By Imogen Whale, Special to the Review

If you’ve ever strolled down Second Street West, you’ve ambled past Sharon Kelley and Jim Cook’s home and garden. There’s a chance you’ve even walked their garden path, enjoying the cool shade offered by their incredible garden.

“I was travelling in PEI and there was a garden that looked so inviting, but I wasn’t sure if I could go in. When Jim and I decided to expand our garden, we knew we wanted people to feel welcome to come in and enjoy it,” Sharon explains.

“We’ve met so many people,” Jim elaborates.

Sharon & Jim’s home is located near the Thrift Store and in the summer they invite the public to enjoy their flower garden. The couple have experienced the odd theft, but that hasn’t deterred them from sharing the beauty.

“Most people, regardless of appearance or what you might assume about them, are respectful, because they’ve been invited,” Jim says.

Sharon and Jim have always tried to be fairly environmentally conscious of their choices. The expansive garden started when, after mowing the lawn with the push mower and watering it, Sharon noted how nice it would be to not have to care for the grass.

Ten years later, the couple’s property is a work of art, with hundreds of perennials, a fish pond (the fish inhabit a spare bathtub inside during the winter season), flowering magnolia trees and a patio. Interspersed throughout the garden are raku pottery dragons made by Sharon.

Considering the creativity that runs deep in both Jim and Sharon it’s not surprising their garden is one of several artistic outlets, and one they can do together. In addition to her pottery, Sharon is an avid painter and her works adorn the walls of their beautiful heritage home. Jim’s watercolour paintings are displayed in the living room and he has a sharp eye for photography.

In Sharon’s case creating art has been a career calling, though her original canvas was hair. She ran her own salon from the 80’s until this past spring when she retired. Sharon practiced sound environmental practices in her studio before it was hip, researching products and changing her practices to suit.

“I would compost hair,” she explains. “It isn’t easy in our climate, but it was popular among people who wanted to use it around the perimeter of their gardens to keep deer away.”

In years past, Sharon contributed a regular column to the Revelstoke Review. “It was a makeover spot,” Sharon says. “We would take excellent before and after pictures and do people’s makeup. It was really fun and popular.”

Originally running her shop from her trailer in the Big Eddy, Sharon moved her salon to their current home in the early 80’s. “The economy had crashed and the prices were low, so buying a home was now or never,” she says. “It was a better location for my business. Back then I had people who wouldn’t come into the Big Eddy in the winter because of the road conditions.”

Jim happened to be one of many Revelstokians who found his way onto her stylist chair.

Jim came to Revelstoke in the 60’s to work at Mica Dam. “I was from Vancouver. I had been taking college courses at night to become a surveyor. I came to Revelstoke to work and make some money before I went back to school,” he says.

“It’s the classic story of coming to this town and falling in love with it,” he adds.

With a natural affinity for math, he found himself in the office at Mica Dam. “No one else knew trigonometry, so it sort of glommed on me to do it once they found out I could” Jim says. He worked as the Chief of Survey, a job that required calculating the drilling, blasting, dirt and concrete needs of the dam.

Seeing the value in the upcoming computer boom, Jim put on the pressure at work to get a computer, and had one of the first in the area in the 70’s. “It was an amazing thing,” Jim says. Later, he worked for BC Hydro, where he kept up his computer skills.

His next move was to teach evening computer classes at the Okanagan College. “They had a computer lab, and no one to teach,” he says. Eventually he transitioned full time to the college.

“They were simple courses,” he says. “In the late ‘70’s I taught students simple programming in BASIC, how a computer actually works and a simple understanding of binary, then later introduction to Microsoft Word and Excel once that software was created.”

Together, Jim and Sharon have contributed to several community groups and boards of directors. They were early proponents of the ski hill. “My kids learned to ski up at the Mica community ski hill,” Jim explains. “Sharon and I always believed the Revelstoke ski hill expansion would be amazing for those of us in town who love to ski and for the community as a whole.”

This summer the two plan to enjoy their garden and other creative endeavours. As May weather shifts gears to a late spring, they are in their garden, coaxing it to life. If you’re looking for a quick respite while downtown, the open gate is an invitation to come in and enjoy the space.

“After all,” Sharon laughs. “What else is a garden for?”

 

One of Sharon Kelley’s paintings. ~ By Sharon Kelley

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