Sharon Rushton lost her battle with cancer on May 16, 2017. She was born on born July 6, 1950 in Hutchinson, Kansas, the daughter of Velma and Dave Betz.
Sharon is survived by her husband James Rushton, her stepson Chris Rushton and his wife Brandi from Fayetteville, AR, and grandson Taggart Rushton; mother Velma Betz of Denver, Colorado; sisters Janet Betz of Denver and Diane west of Windsor, Colorado, nieces Kaeli West and Marissa West-Banninga and her husband Cameron. She is preceded in death by her father Dave Betz.
Sharon and her husband retired to Kimberling City in 2005, and she attended the First Christian Church. She loved family, friends, fishing, golfing, skiing and traveling, and, before she retired, she truly loved working.
Sharon attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado where she studied radio, television and journalism and was a trailblazer. She was the first female disc jockey at the college radio station. She received a scholarship and internship at the ABC affiliate TV station in Denver, Colorado where she became their first female news reporter.
Sharon finished her Bachelor of Arts and was recruited by the Natural Resources College at CSU to become a Guinea pig. They wanted to take a communications student through a Masters program in wildlife to come out as an individual who could communicate wildlife issues. The experiment worked.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency hired Sharon as a regional information and education coordinator and later she became the first female to hold a Chief’s position. Sharon reported the wildlife news for the three Nashville TV stations; Sharon was also a regular guest on a weekly outdoor television program and co-hosted the show for a year. Sharon was editor of the Tennessee Wildlife magazine for three years and a contributor for eleven years. Sharon was also commissioned as a wildlife officer and worked enforcement on holidays and opening days.
The fishing tackle manufacturer Berkley recruited Sharon to move to Spirit Lake, Iowa where she was hired as the founding executive director for the Future Fisherman Foundation. Through the Future Fisherman Foundation, she developed the award-winning Hooked On Fishing – Not On Drugs® program; helped to establish sport fishing and aquatic resource education programs throughout the U.S., developed student manuals for sport fishing and aquatic resources; supervised the development of the National 4-H Sport Fishing Program; and co-wrote the popular Fishing Fun for Kids booklet.
Her work with the Foundation was so successful that the association for the fishing industry moved the Foundation to the association so all manufactures could support it. Sharon’s work through the Foundation touched youth and families throughout the U.S. and three other countries and also earned her Induction and Enshrinement into the national Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame.
The Hooked On Fishing – Not On Drugs program that Sharon developed and coordinated was recognized by three U.S. Presidents and several state attorney generals who witnessed the program’s success in reducing drug use in their states. Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee became a spokesperson for the program and had it implement in Arkansas schools. Schools in more than 20 states utilized the program. Norway sponsored Sharon to present a day-long workshop in Oslo, where they were piloting the program. The Prime Minister of Norway was there to welcome Sharon and to give the opening talk of the workshop. Sharon was also asked to speak to their Environmental Committee of the Parliament.
After the Foundation, Rushton established her own company where she was a co-developer of the Best Practices Workbook for Boating, Fishing and Aquatic Resource Stewardship Education for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, she helped to develop the Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers! campaign for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, coordinated the development of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ Conservation Education Strategy, and helped develop the Step Outside program for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. She coordinated National Fishing Week for several years where she worked with the celebrity chairmen of National Fishing Week … people like pilot Chuck Yeager, racecar driver Davy Allison, and others.
Sharon is the author, co-author or editor of 10 books, and producer of eight videos. She also was a freelance writer and photographer and her work appeared in brochures, newsletters and magazines in both the US and Canada, including Outdoor Life. As a member of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association she served as their president as well as other board positions.
She has been honored with numerous awards for her work in the field of fish and wildlife and natural resources.
Sharon’s passion was fishing. She grew up trout fishing but fell in love with bass fishing when she moved south. She fished the Women’s Bassmaster Tour (WBT) and won the co-angler division of the WBT Preview Event and came in fourth in the WBT’s first championship.
Recently, she stepped out of her comfort zone and wrote the book No Paved Road To Freedom. Based on a true story, the book has been honored with three awards and is receiving 5-Star reviews on Amazon. In 2016 the book became available in Romanian and a movie producer has optioned the movie rights. Written as a gripping novel, the book will remind you that freedom is precious and easily lost––a message Sharon hoped would inspire individuals to protect our freedom in the US.
In lieu of flowers, contributions to one of the following would be appreciated:
- First Christian Church, 5 Hilltop Drive, Kimberling City, MO 65686
- Tim Tucker Memorial Outdoor Communications College Scholarship, OJEFA, P.O. Box 115, Badin, NC 28009