Woman's history unknown, personality bright

Horizons Specialized Services employees enjoy being around bubbly client

Sharon Martinez's medical history is a mystery to local mental health officials.

The 54-year-old developmentally challenged woman moved to Craig 20 to 30 years ago with her mother, but the exact year Martinez arrived in Craig is a mystery.

Martinez does, however, know the date she and her mother took a bus to Craig from Phoenix -- March 16.

Martinez says she had polio when she was a child in California. But whether that's true isn't clear to mental health providers who help Martinez care for herself. Her childhood medical history is a mystery, they say.

But it is clear to the Horizons Specialized Services employees who help her that Martinez's bubbly personality makes her a joy to be around, they say.

Full of surprises

Sylvia McFeaters, day program coordinator for Horizons, spends about five hours a day with Martinez.

McFeaters takes her to the gym to exercise, to the Boys & Girls Club of Craig to play games and to the bowling alley, where she bowls with other Horizons clients.

McFeaters said she is surprised on a regular basis by Martinez's memory and her vocabulary.

Martinez can remembers dates and little things about family members who died years ago, McFeaters said.

Martinez likes to tell McFeaters about a school she attended in Phoenix.

Martinez said she worked in the school's cafeteria before it was demolished.

No one can find records of the school Martinez says she attended, McFeaters said.

But her vocabulary, and the fact that she knew how to swim and read before McFeaters met her, indicates that Martinez attended a strong special-needs school, McFeaters said.

Her 'only mama'

Before Martinez moved into an apartment by herself two years ago, she lived with her elderly mother.

Although Martinez's disabilities mean she needs some help from a caretaker, she was her mother's caretaker.

"It was hard work," Martinez said. "I done real good with my dear, old mother."

Martinez's mother, who is bedridden, lives in a nursing home in Rifle.

Her mother's health and age eventually made it too tough for Martinez to take care of her.

About once a month, Mart--inez and McFeaters make a trip to Rifle to visit Martinez's mother.

When Martinez isn't with her mother, she likes to talk about her, McFeaters said.

When Martinez talks about her mom, she refers to her as "my only mama."

Like sisters

The amount of time the two spend together and Martinez's willingness to help whenever asked have made McFeaters and Martinez close friends.

Martinez likes to say McFeaters is like a mother to her, but McFeaters sees it differently.

"We're kind of like sisters," she said.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com.

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