Edward “Eddie” Sharp (1916-1993)

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Eddie Sharp with Koro Hatto circa 1988.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edward Sharp met Edna Wilma Simons, widow of Wild Billy Simons, just prior to WWII and corresponded by letter with her while he was serving in the Navy during the war. They were married in 1950.  Upon her passing in 1954, Eddie inherited controlling interest in the W.A. Simons Amusement Co., which owned the Wilma Theater.  Thereafter, he and partner Bob Sias ran the Simons empire which included the Roxy Theater, Eddie and Bob’s Go West Drive-in, several other theaters in Montana and Idaho, as well as the Wilma Theater until Eddie’s death in 1993.

Every year on the anniversary of Edna’s passing Eddie would lock himself in his apartment for several days remembering and mourning, admitting no one. He maintained a gas flame at Edna’s grave in the city cemetery, and a heated glass box set in her burial stone stocked with fresh flowers year round. There were rumours that a condition of her will was that he was to visit the grave weekly in order to keep the inheritance but, according to David Keith, Eddie’s assistant during the ’80s and up until his death, these stories were not true.

Besides his devotion to Edna, Eddie was known for his love of animals, particularly doves and pigeons.  Much to the chagrin of some other downtown businesses, he fed and maintained a huge flock of pigeons that could be seen flying about the Wilma Building and landing on its roof for their meals.  One could look up while crossing the Higgins Bridge and see a cage-like structure in one window of Eddie’s apartment which allowed the pigeons access to his rooms. Eddie’s constant companion was Korro Hatto (pictured with Eddie above), who sat on his shoulder whilst Eddie took tickets and served refreshments at both the Go West and the Chapel of the Dove.

Eddie, Koro Hatto (d. 1989) and Bob Sias (1921-1999) are interred together in the Missoula City Cemetery.  The burial plot also contains the graves of Billy Simons (1864-1937), Edna Wilma (1895-1954), and her sister, Edith (Sid) Wilma (1887-1932).

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Simons / Sharp burial plot

6 thoughts on “Edward “Eddie” Sharp (1916-1993)

  1. I feel a word should be said about the great artists that Eddie Sharp and Bob Sias brought to Missoula to perform at the Wilma in the 1950’s. As a teenager, I had the opportunity to see and hear Mahalia Jackson and Carlos Montoya. They were only two of the famous artists that the Wilma sponsored. As I understand it, these performances lost money for the Wilma but Bob and Eddie felt they were an important contribution to the Missoula community. Perhaps someone can research the other performers in the series as I can only remember the 2 that I was fortunate enough to see there.

    As a side note: if memory serves me correctly, Miss Jackson at first refused to perform when she realized it was in a theater. It was only after she was told that Easter services had been held there in the past and with the support of the local religious community that she consented to the venue.

  2. According to a manuscript entitled “The Chapel of the Dove,” authored by Eddie Sharp, as Mahalia was entering the Florence Hotel she saw her name on the Wilma marquee and exclaimed “I will not sing in any theater, it’s against my religion. Call my manager and cancel the performance!” Eddie and Bob were dumbfounded as they entered the hotel with her. The house was sold out. Eddie said “Miss Jackson, Good Friday Easter Services are held in the Wilma every year. Also, my wife’s funeral was held at the Wilma as it is named for her.” “Well,” Mahalia replied, “If it’s good enough for the Lord, It’s good enough for me!” And so the performance was held as scheduled in January of 1961.

  3. Just for the record. The rumor that Eddie Sharp was turned Gay by Edna Wilma Simmons is totally a falsehood! She knew Ed was Bi-Sexual when they meet. She did not care, as long as he gave her what she needed….. you know what I mean. She had married an older man (William “Billy” Simmons) and wanted a younger man that would make her laugh and could be musical with her as she was Soprano and Light Opera Star in her day. They loved one another. I know because I have every letter Edna wrote to Ed when he was away in the Navy serving during the war. There was a real connection. The rumors were actually started by Edna the year she died. She starting telling some, open mouths…, that she was leaving everything to Ed, but on one condition that he never have a serious relationship with a woman or remarry. This was done to protect Ed and allow him to live his life as a gay man. Edna knew he was really more gay than anything else. Edna was a very smart woman. She did not have the empire she had because she was naive. 37 movie theaters, 3 ranches, 400 head of sheep and an interest in the Marcus Daly meat packing plant, that is her legacy after she passed. July 25th, 1954 in her bed, with Ed holding her. When Ed passed in 1993 that same bed was still in their bedroom. Ed loved her very much. Just so the story is correct.

  4. There are few survivors of the Eddie Sharp era now. It seems like the Wilma just wants to erase 40 years of Ed and Bob running the building and company. Sad really. It was an interesting time for Missoula and the Wilma. I know history on both the Wilma and The Palace Hotel. Dave Anderson’s daughter Dorothy was a close personal friend of mine. She was actually conceived in Ed Sharp’s apartment. Now there is a story.

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