#b#Sharon Lee Parker#/b# didn’t come to run Boehm Porcelain the way most people would. Most people would have scoped out the business, applied formulae, and talked it over with potential investors.
Parker went in to by a flower.
Parker will tell her story at the Princeton Chamber’s Business Before Business meeting “Keeping an American Legacy Company Alive and Thriving in Mercer County,” on Wednesday, June 16, at 7:30 a.m. at Mountain View Golf Course in West Trenton. Cost: $40. Visit www.princetonchamber.org.
In 2002 Parker was living in Florida when she went to the doctor for a small breathing problem. The doctor gave her Allerex for “nasal allergies.”
Unfortunately, what she really had was a deadly one-two punch of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and thyroid cancer. She left Florida for NYU, where she had a series of tests that revealed a benign brain tumor.
Parker then moved to Houston to take her treatment at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, where she spent eight months with her doctor, only to have him move to Hackensack.
So Parker moved to New Jersey with him.
While she was undergoing treatments, she wanted one of her favorite possessions — a porcelain flower from Boehm called the Hope Rose. Parker, still in awe of the craftsmanship and artistry of Boehm’s creations, says the rose became a symbol of strength — porcelain flowers, after all, never die.
The rose also became the symbol for her Life Lover Foundation, which she established once she came through the other side of treatments. She wrote a book that is about to enter its second edition, “Look Out Cancer, Here I Come,” in 2006, and its cover is adorned with the Hope Rose.
Parker also established herself as a cancer coach, approaching cancer as a beatable entity and talking from the non-medical side. She has counseled more than 1,530 people in not just coping with cancer, but in how to handle the disease through diet, the best doctors available, and keeping a positive attitude.
A little more than a year ago Parker, looking to buy a $595 Hope Rose for one of her clients, walked into Boehm’s studio in Trenton. She was met with a studio full of long faces — the legendary firm, founded by E. M. Boehm in 1950, was in serious financial distress and was likely to close. Worse, she says, rumors suggested it would move overseas.
Parker would have none of it. “This studio needs to stay in America, where it belongs,” she says. “It behooves all of us to save American businesses.” So she bought the company and became its president and public face.
Parker graduated from the university of Northern Colorado with a bachelor’s in gerontology in 1977. She had married her childhood sweetheart, George in 1963 — the same George she met at age 9 and said to herself that she would marry him. They met at the 1,200-room Concord Resort Hotel in Kiamesha Lake, New York, which George’s family ran. Her father worked as a reporter until the day he died at the age of 96.
Parker has just returned from the White House, where she presented President Obama with a Boehm piece. Obama is now the 10th president to receive a piece from the studio, dating back to Dwight Eienshower. Boehm also has pieces in the Smithsonian, Buckingham Palace, and its largest repository, the Vatican.
“Saving Boehm wasn’t saving General Motors,” she says, “but it was saving a legacy American treasure. If we stop making everything ourselves, where are our children going to work?”