The pasta sauce and garden salads made in Sharon Williamson’s kitchen are as fresh as they come.
That’s because Williamson, a resident of New Community Douglas Homes, picks her tomatoes and cucumbers straight from the garden that she tends in the backyard of her NCC residence at 15 Hill St. in Newark.
She’s not the only one who reaps the benefits of the harvest, according to Care Coordinator Luz Toro.
“During the summer months, Mrs. Williamson beautifies our yard with fruits and vegetables that she grows herself and shares it with the rest of our seniors,” she said.
“What makes her stand out is her love for nature and her kindness. She beautifies the building’s lobby and offices with beautiful plans that she cares for all year round,” Toro added of Williamson, who moved into Douglas Homes in 2008.
In addition to gardening during the daytime, 57-year-old Williamson works evenings part time in guest services at the Prudential Center. Her job has given her opportunities to see performers such as Patti LaBelle, Tina Turner and the Rolling Stones, she said.
Williamson adopted a green thumb early in her life. Born and raised in Newark, Williamson said she grew up spending her summers in North Carolina, where she harvested tobacco on her grandfather’s farm, first picking, then tying the tobacco onto sticks and finally drying them in a barn.
Until she became a teenager, Williamson spent time on the farm each year, surrounded by fresh produce such as bell peppers and melons as well as pecan trees, peach trees, rice fields (in the woods) and pigs.
At Douglas Homes, she grows strawberries and even ambitiously attempted other items. “I tried corn but the squirrels eat them up,” she said, noting that the stalks grew several feet tall. Her fellow residents occasionally help pull weeds. Others simply like to observe her growing garden.
Previously, Williamson and her husband, who also lives at Douglas Homes, ran a landscaping business together. For more than 15 years, they landscaped properties primarily in the Weequahic section of the city, but also ventured beyond Newark to Linden, Rahway and Roselle, she said.
Williamson and her husband have seven children. In her free time, she watches the popular television series “The Walking Dead” and enjoys going on the annual trip down the shore organized by Health and Social Services.