After a 48-year career as a high school teacher, the late Sharon Daly Mansfield, BA '53, had earned her designation as a legendary teacher. The outpouring of respect and affection from her former students and colleagues was overwhelming. Below, we are sharing more about Mrs. Mansfield and her amazing career: the eulogy, the full obituary, and some photos from her past.
Jesus of Nazareth was more than a teacher. He was a prophet, challenging the cultural and religious mores of his time. He was a priest, a mediator of grace and peace between God and humanity. He was a king, presiding over a most unorthodox kingdom in which the first are last and the last first. He was the friend of sinners and those on the margins of society. He was a healer of the broken. He was the son of Mary, son of man, and Son of God, the Christ, the crucified and risen Lord who redeems us from sin and death and sets us free. Jesus was more than a teacher, but there is no denying that he was a great teacher, possessed of wisdom and insight and a profound mind, a teller of stories ripe with truth.
Sharon Mansfield was more than a teacher. She was a loving wife and devoted mother to five daughters, who all grew up to be strong women. Given the range in their ages and personalities, each daughter had her own unique relationship with her mother and remembers her a bit differently, but these are some of the things they told me. She was an interesting and complex woman, the consummate Southern woman -- proper, well-educated, and independent. She was an old fashioned mom, a strict disciplinarian who ran the household when her husband was away with his military career. She was a resourceful woman, who, with limited financial means, made sure that her daughters had piano lessons and dance lessons and braces and pretty dresses for proms and cotillions and the best educations. She took them to football games and took them swimming. She was always grading papers. She insisted that her children use proper grammar; when they would write letters home from summer camp, when they returned home, they would find the letters on their beds with the grammatical errors corrected. She was a woman of deep and abiding faith, a dyed in the wool Methodist, who saw to it that her children were raised in the faith and in the church. And it was her faith that helped her daughters through some tough times. She was an accepting mother, who encouraged her daughters to find their own path, their own identity, and who allowed them to learn from their mistakes. Sometimes this mother and her daughters would butt heads and things would become contentious, but in the end, all was forgiven, apologies given and apologies accepted. She took time to listen and to engage in extended conversations when her children had questions about life or their own life struggles. She never really understood King Lear until she buried her own child. Sharon Mansfield was more than a teacher, but there is no denying that she was a great teacher, a woman with a keen intellect and love of the classics, well-versed in history, Latin, and the English language, a kind of Renaissance woman conversant in religion and philosophy and politics, a woman who believed in public education and in the importance of knowing how to write a proper five-paragraph theme.
When Jesus began his teaching ministry, he began to speak in the veiled speech of parables, in artfully suggestive stories that both reveal and conceal, that hint rather than explain, stories that require interpretation with their strange and unexpected punch lines. In the parable of the sower, we find such a punch line. It's the story of a farmer who broadcasts seed across his field by hand and then plows the seed into the ground. Some of the seed fell on the compacted footpaths that bordered the fields and didn't get plowed under, and the birds ate the seed. Other seeds fell on the shallow soil covering the shelf of limestone found in many Palestinian fields; the seeds germinated but quickly withered in the hot sun because their roots were not deep. Other seeds fell upon the thorns. The native thorns and thistles were always encroaching on the fields, and they would get plowed under with the seeds, and then spring back with gusto, choking out the more tender seedlings. But other seeds fell upon the better soil and yielded a harvest. But any experienced farmer knew that even in the best of growing seasons, the vast majority of the seed would bear no fruit.
And so the gathered crowd must have been wondering why this carpenter turned rabbi was telling them about farming. That is, until he delivers the punch line. And then they realize that either he doesn't know anything about farming or that he is talking about something more than farming. "Some seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty," he says. But everyone gathered there on the beach beside the sea knows that no soil is that good, that the best harvest a farmer could hope for would be a seven to tenfold yield for every bushel sown. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear," he says.
So what are we supposed to hear? What are we supposed to understand? The disciples aren't sure, so Jesus tells them that the story is about the kingdom of God and offers an interpretation. And the temptation is to moralize his interpretation, to make of it a morality lesson, and many interpreters do just that. They tell us that a better name for this parable would be the parable of the soils. And they urge us to keep Satan from the soil of our hearts, so that the kingdom seed won't be snatched from us. And they tell us not to be shallow but to remove those rocks, those sins, from the soil of our lives, so that we can put down deep roots and stand true to the kingdom in times of tribulation. And they tell us to root out those thorns and thistles that infest the soil of our hearts, those worldly cares and that lust for money and the things that money can buy; we must rid our hearts of those preoccupations so that we can bear kingdom fruit. In short, we are to cultivate good hearts, good soil, so that the word of the kingdom will thrive in us and yield an incredible harvest, even a hundredfold.
And while all of that is well and good and maybe a word we need to hear, that is not what this parable is about. At least to my mind, that's not what it's about. I think there is a reason Jesus calls this story the parable of the sower rather than the parable of the soils. This is not a story about dirt; it's a story about the Sower who is God. It's not a story about us, about the goodness or badness of our hearts; it's a story about the kingdom, about the reign of God. And Jesus tells this story to encourage us. For when the sower goes out to sow, he knows full well that precious little of that seed is going to bear fruit. He knows that the vast majority of seed he sows will not finally yield a harvest. But the sower sows anyway. He broadcasts the kingdom seed far and wide -- liberally, indiscriminately. Not everyone who hears the word of the kingdom is going to embrace the kingdom and bear kingdom fruit. That's the hard truth of it. Still, the sower sows the seed.
Not everyone will hear and understand the kingdom word, but some will. Some will follow the Christ, and in them the kingdom will take root and thrive and flourish and bear incredible fruit, not because their hearts are that good, but because God's heart is that good and generous. The kingdom bears fruit in the soil of our lives, not because we are good, but because God is good and his kingdom is gracious.
The kingdom bore fruit in the soil of Sharon Mansfield's life, and God used her in a powerful way. She became a sower of seeds. That's what teachers do; they sow seeds in the lives of their children and in the lives of their students, knowing full well that much of that seed will fall on hard, rocky, thorny ground and bear no fruit, for ultimately each child, each student is responsible for their own learning. But she sowed anyway, and some of those seeds fell on good soil and bore incredible fruit, beyond which some of those students even thought themselves capable, not because they were necessarily good students, but because she was a good and generous teacher, someone who cared about them, who wanted and expected them to learn, who opened to them a larger world than the one they had known, who showed them the power and art and beauty of words well written and the riches of literature, who did not give up on them, who believed in them and their ability to learn and grow and develop. So she kept sowing seeds. And because she cared, her students cared and wanted to please her and live up to her standards, even managing to surprise themselves at their prowess to write cogently and mine the depths of the great poets and authors who have stood the test of time. And that is why 40 years after the fact, 40 years after that sophomore English class, they still remember her, when other teachers have been forgotten. She took them to places they didn't know they could go. She laid in them a strong foundation on which they could successfully build. Liberally and indiscriminately, she sowed seeds, and some of those seeds fell on good soil and brought forth an incredible harvest in the lives of her students, because she was faithful and God is gracious.
As a mother, a grandmother, a teacher, and a friend, Sharon Mansfield was one of God's good gifts to us. And though we will miss her, we take comfort in knowing that she is in the company of the God she loved and faithfully served. "A sower went out to sow." Amen.
Wacoan Elizabeth Sharon Daly Mansfield, 86, passed away on Tuesday, January 22, 2019, while living in San Antonio. Services will be held at Austin Avenue United Methodist, 1300 Austin Avenue, at 2:30 p.m., Saturday, January 26. Mrs. Mansfield may be viewed at Wilkirson-Hatch-Bailey Funeral Home, and a time of visitation will be 5:00-7:00 p.m., Friday, January 25.
Sharon was born in Galveston, Texas, on September 16, 1932, to Louise Adams Daly and Hugh “Bud” Hardy Daly. She grew up in Waco and graduated from Waco High School. She was there in 1948 when the school won the State football title, which started her lifelong love of high school football. She attended Baylor University and graduated with a teaching degree in history and Latin. She married James “Jim” Thomas Mansfield in 1953. After traveling with Jim in the Air Force, the young couple spent several years in Fort Worth, where Sharon taught Latin at Monnig Junior High and Pascal High School.
They moved to Waco with three daughters in 1962, when Sharon started teaching sophomore advanced English at Richfield High School. As some would say, thus began her "long reign of excellence"; for sophomores at Richfield, who usually eventually realized that by braving her class, they would be able to test out of freshman and maybe sophomore English at universities all over the U.S. Her Latin background often bolstered her students' ability to grasp English grammar. If a student was having difficulty with conjugating a verb or understanding the passive voice, for example, Mrs. Mansfield would ask them what foreign language they were taking in school, then proceed to explain the applicable rule for the exercise to fit their German, Spanish or Latin education. Up until her move to San Antonio last year, ex-students and their parents still visited, offering thanks for her contribution to their careers and quality of life.
Sharon loved her students and cared about their personal, athletic, musical and academic achievements in other areas. She was a defender of the little guy and creatives of all kinds. One ex-student recalled a time when he was unconsciously talking to himself while walking down the hall. A group of girls started laughing and made fun of him. Sharon witnessed the event and without missing a beat, walked up to them, stated, "He's a thinker," then walked off without saying another word.
While at Richfield/Waco High, Sharon sponsored University Interscholastic League (UIL) Ready Writers (winning multiple awards) and received "Best Teacher in WISD" accolades. She also taught creative writing in the summer to classes in the Baylor English department. She attended every possible school football game and took her daughters along at early ages. She had a great love of primarily English and American literature, and taught her students that same respect by teaching great authors such as Hemingway, Crane, Shakespeare and more. For poetry, she added some Texas and world notables, and brought in the Poet Laureate of Texas and multiple teachers and artists from Baylor University to help expose her students to the best writers, musicians and philosophers that Waco, Baylor and Texas had to offer. And before everyone graduated, she studied several of her daughters -- and many of their friends -- through Latin assignments, as only she could. In her last 10 years of her career, she also taught Latin and World History, ending an amazing 48 year calling in the classroom.
Many, many accolades have poured in from former students as they have learned of Sharon's passing. ". . .(Mrs. Mansfield) was a true Texas treasure. Smart, savvy, no-nonsense." . . . "A brilliant and demanding educator who leaves an incredible legacy of well-versed students." . . . "She was definitely one of the toughest teachers I ever had. I always refer to [Sharon] when my kids tell me about 'how hard' they think a class is for them. I tell them that they will appreciate it later." . . . "It was in her class that my love for words started to grow. I have your mom to thank for me becoming a journalist." . . . "She somehow transformed centuries old literature into something enjoyable for 16 year olds in the 1970s . . . Anyone who finds it impossible to forget the imagery associated with 'The red sun was pasted in the sky life a wafer' was likely one of Mrs. Mansfield's students."
As a result of the affection of some of her ex-students, a scholarship at Baylor was established in her name to benefit future teachers. The Sharon Daly Mansfield scholarship is the largest in the School of Education.
Her daily loves included Jim, her daughters, her mother, Louise, and her aunt, Libba. Also, raising just about any stray animal that came along -- explaining that they all looked "hungry." Other activities included raising five daughters, reading and swimming, but most of the time it seemed like her main hobby was grading papers. A piano player herself, she got all five daughters to piano, dance, choir, swimming and other lessons, recitals, plays, symphonies, cotillions, proms and finally, graduations. She faithfully attended Austin Avenue United Methodist Church as a member of the Evans class, a church chosen by her mother for its world class organ and choir program. Sharon came from a long line of Methodists, including her great grandfather who was a Methodist preacher. Her strong faith and consistent prayer life helped to lead family members through tough times.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Louise A. and Hugh H. Daly; husband, Jim Mansfield; daughter, Ann Carol Mansfield; son-in-law, Keith Jimenez; and many beloved cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents.
She is survived by daughters, Donna Francis, son, Richard, wife, Lesley, and their daughter, Parker; Nancy Parker; Susan Peek; and Rebecca Mansfield and husband, Bruce Ralston. She is also survived by first cousins, Stacy Adams, Memie Adams Hardie, and Linda Adams Fulenwider and husband, Johnny.
Honorary Pallbearers are Richard Francis, Bruce Ralston, John Burleson, Lawrence Peek, Burt Waldrop, Thomas Huckaby, David Lacy and Ambassador Lyndon Olson.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you donate to the Sharon Daly Mansfield Scholarship at the School of Education at Baylor University, to Austin Avenue United Methodist Church, to the Waco Humane Society, or to the charity of your choice.