Alison Claflin Sharpe, 87, Spent Summers on East Chop

Alison Claflin Sharpe, active for many years as a community and political volunteer and mental health counselor, died of cancer at her home in Riderwood Village Retirement Community in Silver Spring, Md. She was 87.

Born on Oct. 21, 1917 in Attleboro, Mrs. Sharpe moved to Chevy Chase, Md. when she was 11. She graduated from Bethesda Chevy Chase High School in 1934.

On the basis of her strong academic performance at BCC, she won a 4-year scholarship to George Washington University. At GWU, she maintained her fine record of scholarship and her lifelong interest in sports, particularly tennis, winning recognition as the outstanding sophomore woman and retiring the GWU women's championship tennis cup after she won it three years in a row. She continued to play tennis until she was 80 years old.

Mrs. Sharpe received a Master's degree in physical education from Wellesley College in 1940. With that degree and additional training, she became a physical therapist. While working at Walter Reed Army Hospital during World War II, she met her husband, Dr. George Sharpe.

After Dr. Sharpe's tour of duty in the Pacific and completion of his residency in Ohio, the couple returned to live in Kensington in 1948. For the next three decades, Mrs. Sharpe was active in politics and as a community volunteer. She was a charter member, and second chairperson, of the Montgomery County consumer affairs commission. She also served on the county commission on aging, and was a member, and for a time, president, of a local chapter of the League of Women Voters. In addition, she served as a Democratic Party precinct chairperson.

In the early 1970's Mrs. Sharpe was selected to be one of seven women trained to be mental health counselors in an innovative program developed at the National Institutes of Health to prepare mature women for careers as psychotherapists. This program attracted national attention and served as a prototype for the development of the new profession of mental health counselor. Upon completion of her training, she worked as a counselor at Hood College for a number of years.

Mrs. Sharpe was also noted as a seamstress, sewing costumes for the Montgomery Savoyards and making wedding gowns for a number of friends and for her own daughter.

Mrs. Sharpe summered regularly on Martha's Vineyard for more than 55 years. Her father, who had visited the Vineyard as a young boy, introduced her to the Island when she was a child. From 1956 until 2000, she and her husband owned a house on Winemack avenue in Oak Bluffs.

She was a member of the Cedar Lane Unitarian Church in Kensington.

She will be remembered for the smug smile she displayed on the tennis court whenever she hit a clever shot, her strong and consistent commitment to human rights, and her support for liberal political causes, as well as for the love she showed for her family and friends.

Survivors include her husband of 63 years; two daughters, Jeanette Kreiser of Chevy Chase and Martha Reva Menestrina of Sunnyvale Calif.; a son, Robert of Chicago; and six grandchildren, Joshua Kreiser, Deborah Kreiser-Francis, David and Lisa Menestrina, Richard and Jeffery Sharpe.