Interviewed by Joy Huntington
Diane Tharpe is a strong, independent, and lively woman. This is evident in the cordiality of her smile and the warmth of her home. Ms. Tharpe was initially attracted to Sherman Park because of the beauty and quality of the well-maintained homes in the neighborhood and the demographic diversity of its residents. Although the community has changed since then, Ms. Tharpe’s passion for the neighborhood remains intact.
Ms. Tharpe moved into her home in 1994, when her son was twelve years old. She rented for four years before buying the home in 1998 and renting out the upper unit to her sister. She had ambitious plans for her home, and she accomplished them with the help of her brothers. For instance, she has added a large patio in the backyard, renovated the bathroom, replaced all the windows and completed extensive landscaping. She continues to maintain her yard and garden on her own. Now that her son has moved out, she has her home all to herself. She plays video games in her recreation room, relaxes on her back deck and listens to music, hosts her granddaughters, and watches the stars through her telescope during summer.
Ms. Tharpe believes that one should use all parts of their home because, she explains, "I think a home should be home, not a mausoleum .... You should be able to use any room." She uses her very formal living and dining rooms and her dining room table, which is always formally set. On Sundays after church, Ms. Tharpe invites her family over and they have a nice meal at the table. She eats there by herself when she doesn’t have visitors.
Ms. Tharpe believes in the importance of hard work and independence. She worked through radiology school and was initially an X-ray technician and a CT technician. She has been an MRI technician for the last twelve years. When her son was growing up, she made sure to teach him how to keep house and cook and to never rely on anyone else. She also taught her granddaughters, nieces, and nephews some of these basic survival skills, taking them on technology-free camping trips every summer, where they would build fires, cook meals, and tell stories. Through these trips, they learned valuable lessons and bonded as a family.
The majority of the residents on her street were homeowners when Ms. Tharpe came to Sherman Park. Today, there are an increasingly large number of tenants, many who don’t maintain their properties. During the interview, Ms. Tharpe often brought up issues associated with renters and landlords in the area. Ms. Tharpe says that rented properties and foreclosed homes are issues in the community because they cause depreciation and make other homes look bad. She refers to the “eyesore” next door to her home, owned by an absentee landlord. She is frustrated by the fact that people who come to visit her home will remember the run-down property next door before they remember hers.
Ms. Tharpe and other homeowners are motivated to improve the community because they know how wonderful it once was: a family-centered place where people showed pride in their properties and neighborhood. She says she would never move out unless she gets too old to maintain the property. With strong beliefs in respect and common courtesy, Ms. Tharpe hopes that the community will eventually become close-knit and that people will look out for each other. Community members like her are making this dream a reality through their passion and care for this neighborhood.