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Slain mother worked in town nearly 20 years

By Staff | Jun 19, 2009

Kathy Sharp

Paula Roll and her friend Kathy Sharp were planning to do some painting Monday at the Shepherdstown dentist office where they have worked together for 10 years.

But Katherine Nicole Sharp – mother of a daughter in her teens and a young son – won’t be returning to her job as a dental assistant for Dr. Brian Palank. She worked in the Maddex Professional Center off W.Va. 45 her entire adult life, says Roll, also a dental assistant.

Sharp, who would have turned 36 next month, was found dead in her Hedgesville area home about 2:30 p.m. Monday.

“I don’t know how I’m going to go back to work,” Roll said during an emotional telephone interview with the Chronicle on Tuesday. “She was like my work soulmate.”

Sharp’s ex-boyfriend Donald Berkeley Surber, 37, of Winchester, had held Sharp hostage during a 26-hour standoff in the Ridgefield subdivision off Reliance Road with police officers from around the region. Surber has been arrested for kidnapping, and local prosecutors are seeking a first-degre e murder charge against him. The kidnapping charge alone carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Surber has an extensive police record in Virginia.

Roll said Sharp had a way of comforting dental patients who would often come in anxious or scared. They were always glad to see Sharp’s smiling face. “So many people have called me,” Roll said.

News of Sharp’s death was a shock this week in Shepherdstown, where her friends and acquaintances have recalled a woman who loved her children and was always upbeat and happy.

“She always smiled,” Roll said. “And she never had a bad day at work.”

Years before they would work together for Dr. Palank, Roll and Sharp lived about a mile apart in Charles Town. Roll’s sister and Sharp went to school together at Jefferson High School.

And Sharp’s own children were “the light in her eye,” Roll said, noting she always liked to tell about what the children were doing or funny things they would say.

“It’s so unfair,” Roll said. Thursday, June 11, was last day she saw Sharp. And the two had made plans to come to the dental office to paint. Sharp planned to come in a little late because she had to take her son to camp. Knowing Roll, who works part-time, would not have a key to get in, Sharp offered her keychain. Later, having learned of Sharp’s death, the keys made Roll feel uneasy, she said. “I just want her back so bad.”

Roll and Sharp had signed up as volunteers for the Mission of Mercy free dental clinic to be held at Hedgesville High School next weekend. They have always worked well together their personalities “clicked,” Roll said. Returning to work will be difficult.

“I just can’t imagine walking through those doors, and her not being there,” Roll said. “Dr. Palank’s office is never going to be the same without her. I know life goes on, but I don’t know how.”

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Funeral services will be held for Sharp at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Brown Funeral Home’s South Berkeley Chapel in Inwood. Family will receive friends at the chapel from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday.

Contributions in memory of Sharp for her son and daughter can be sent to P.O. Box 363, Kearneysville, WV 25430.