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There’s more than meets the eye to Placer chaplain

Hawkeye Sharpe a man of many talents
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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Hawkeye Sharpe has been Santa Claus, a gold miner, a mountain man and a reverend. But he believes it was a calling from God to take on his most recent roll as a Placer County Sheriff’s community chaplain. For five years, the 70-year-old retiree has helped people with whatever he can when they’re experiencing perhaps one of the most devastating moments of their life. “It was a feeling that I wanted to do it,” Sharpe said of his decision to sign up for chaplain training. Prior to becoming a chaplain, Sharpe was a volunteer on the Folsom Lake equestrian patrol unit. He said one day he responded to a call involving a teenage girl and her horse. The horse went into the lake to get a drink of water but soon got carried too far in, its reins became tangled in a tree and the horse drowned. Sharpe said he remembers watching everyone focus on the horse and no one seemed to remember that the teen girl was nearby. “She was the one who really needed the support because she was still alive,” Sharpe said. Sharpe said he applies that same focus as a chaplain. “When I go to a scene of an accident it’s not the person who died that needs my help, it’s the people who are left behind,” Sharpe said. As a chaplain, Sharpe has been awakened in the wee hours of the morning to respond to various accident scenes. He’s walked along side officers searching for the body of a woman who jumped off the Foresthill Bridge because “it’s pretty traumatic to see a body after it’s jumped off that bridge” and he’s stood next to officers as they’ve notified loved ones that their family member has died. He and other chaplains are there to help families in whatever way they can during the initial crisis. Sharpe added that chaplains only help if families want them to. Oftentimes, he says, people tell him that they could never do his job. To that, Sharpe responds, “That’s why it’s a calling.” “I believe that God is within each one of us all the time,” Sharpe said. “When I go out on a call, I keep repeating (to God), ‘Please speak to me and through me.’ Sometimes I don’t have the foggiest idea about what to say.” Senior supervising chaplain Art Pauly said Sharpe has a light-hearted reputation for being the “Indiana Jones” of the chaplaincy. Pauly recalled one time when Sharpe was driving an upset relative either to or from a hospital when the man jumped out of the car. Sharpe jumped out with him, Pauly said, and was able to calm the man and get him back inside. “He is so adaptable and he always seems to get into situations that are extremely unusual,” Pauly said. “A lot of the cases turn into adventures.” Chaplaincy isn’t Sharpe’s only adventure. The retired textbook salesman and traveling consultant is also a volunteer docent at the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park in Coloma and teaches visitors how to pan for gold. He makes between 20 and 30 appearances as Santa Claus at wintertime and a few times a year reenacts sermons at Emanuel Church in Coloma as Reverend Freedom Hawkins. He also rides as a mountain man during reenactments of wagon trains coming out of the Sierra. It was during that role that he developed the love for his “character name” of Hawkeye. He legally adopted the name and now doesn’t reveal his name prior to the change. At 70 years old, Sharpe said he is still riding his 1100cc Honda Shadow motorcycle. He said he will keep riding it until he feels it’s time to stop. Sharpe said he holds the same sentiment about being a chaplain. “You’ve got to feel it in your heart that it’s something you want to do,” Sharpe said. “When you feel like you don’t want to do it anymore, then you need to listen to that, too.” Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com. ---------- Get to know: Hawkeye Sharpe What’s in a name?: Sharpe participates in reenactments of wagon trains coming over the Sierra. His character “Hawkeye” is a mountain man who helps guide the wagons. He said friends started to constantly refer to him as Hawkeye and he later legally changed his name. Indiana Jones: Sharpe has been a Placer County community chaplain for five years. Other chaplains light-heartedly refer to him as Indiana Jones because of his ability to handle the unusual situations that arise on duty. Traveling man: Sharpe was a career textbook salesman. He retired at the age of 56 and did professional consulting around the country and the world. He estimates that he traveled about 60,000 miles a year by air until he stopped his consulting business. ----------