African-American Icons: Lillye Sharper

African-American Icons: Lillye Sharper
Posted at 6:10 PM, Feb 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-22 10:16:25-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - All month long we've been featuring locals who are making a difference in our community, with a segment called "African American Icons".

She sews, and sings...but it's Lillye Sharper's smile that warms your heart.

"She is a great lady to work with each and every day," says Paul Zipperer, the owner/manager of Valdosta Dry Cleaners. "She comes in every day, she has a great mood every day. She comes in and speaks to every single person in the building and then she'll eventually just make her way to our alterations room."

For the past 22 years, Mrs. Lillye has been threading the needle, taking care of everyone's alterations at Valdosta Dry Cleaners.

Sewing, says Lillye, was a talent she was basically born with.

"When I had some material and wanted me a skirt made, I kept asking my mom to make my skirt and she said you do it yourself. I was about 13," said Lillye. "So I did it myself and I shouldn't have, because from then on, I had to do everything myself. Then I had to start sewing for her and then my classmates."

And fashion quickly became her passion.

"Right now we're making the skinny leg pants," said Lillye. "Everybody wants their legs skinny, even the men." 

Her hard work isn't just on the job. She's raised six children. Her kindness is sewn into the fabric of her life, and the lives of her kids.

"To me, my mom is the greatest mom in the world. She is very loving, very kind, she is very generous, she is very intelligent, she is just the world, she is my everything," said daughter Sharon. "She mentored us from children, her and my dad. My mom is just the best!"

But it's her musicality that's a common thread among the Sharper family. Lillye and her kids formed "The Sharper Singers" 41 years ago, and have been performing their original Gospel music at churches and events, ever since.

"We just love singing. That was our gift and we just enjoy going to make people happy, just singing," Sharon says. "It was instilled in us as children. So as adults, we still love just participating and just singing. It's a part of our life."

Mrs. Lillye caught the attention of Jay Green, the General Manager of Power 99.1 radio.

"She was one of the first people they told me to meet when I came to Valdosta almost two years ago. She's somebody that goes out of her way to help people," said Green. "Being a Gospel radio station, I knew I needed to connect with her and the region loves her."

And it's why he nominated Lillye to be an African American Icon.

"I feel kind of special, to know that I was doing something that I was only doing because it is me," said Lillye. "My motto is to serve and not to be served, so that's what I do all the time. I'm happy when I'm doing something for someone else."

So whether it's a hem she's sewing or a hymn she's singing, Lillye Sharper will always do it with love.