In Memoriam – Sharon Mayberry

Northampton, MA — Sharon Mayberry died on October 8, 2021.

She was known for her critical mind, strong opinions and keen sense of humor. She was skeptical of convention but found meaning and beauty in places often overlooked by others.

She was born in New York City on February 11, 1944. Her life changed dramatically when her mother died in 1947, setting in motion an unsettled childhood that informed the rest of her life.

After her mother’s death, Sharon and her sister lived with a succession of relatives until they were adopted in their teens by their step-parents Jack and Jane McManus. She graduated from Hendrik Hudson High School in Montrose, NY and enrolled at Harpur College (now Binghamton University) in 1961. Although she attended Harpur only briefly, it was a formative experience and she made many lifelong friendships there.

The 1960s were tumultuous – she married Bill Anton in 1964, had a son in 1965, and spent 1967-1968 in San Francisco before separating from her husband and moving to New York City.

Sharon moved to Western Massachusetts in 1971, first to Ashfield and then Northampton. Initially she worked at UMass while completing her undergraduate degree in a low-residency program at Goddard College.

Sharon later worked for many years as a freelance writer and editor. She is perhaps best-known for the film criticism she wrote in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including a weekly column in the Gazette. She was an early champion of New German Cinema, particularly the works of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Many people recognized her ability as a writer, including the MacDowell Colony which awarded her a fellowship to focus on her work.

The 1990s saw her reinvent herself as a movie extra. She became a member of the Screen Actors Guild and appeared in several movies made in Western Massachusetts and Vermont. She moved to Los Angeles and worked as an extra in television while also pursuing her interest in painting and drawing. After a brief stint living above Hugo’s on Pleasant Street, she then spent a few years in Gainesville, Florida before moving back to Northampton.

She met her husband Jack Speyer in the late 1970s. They were married for 40 years until his death in 2019. Sharon and Jack collaborated in his antique business, particularly in the early years when he was establishing his shop and art gallery in Leeds.

Sharon struggled with her mental health throughout her life. Her depression and agoraphobia frequently undermined her accomplishments. Her traumatic childhood yielded a fear of abandonment that made it difficult for her to sustain relationships. Despite these challenges, she leaves behind many close friends who loved her dearly and whom she loved in return.

She is survived by her son John Anton, his wife Renee Schwalberg, and granddaughters Claire and Leah Anton, all of Portland, ME. She is also survived by her sister Enid Mayberry Senter of Naples, Italy.

A celebration of life for both Sharon and Jack will be held this spring or summer. In lieu of flowers or gifts, please consider making a gift to the Northampton Survival Center.

Published by Daily Hampshire Gazette on Dec. 18, 2021.