Neighborhood Nurturer

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After almost 19 years as a doorwoman for the Courtney House apartment building, Sharon French says her daily commute no longer feels like going to work, but rather like “going to see family.”

One of the best aspects of her job, she says, is watching the residents grow from children to adults who get married and start families of their own. Residents and fellow employees have witnessed her life milestones as well. Two years ago, doctors diagnosed French with uterine cancer, requiring her to undergo surgical treatments and spend time in the hospital. She said her building family was with her through it all.

Sharon French watches over the other doormen and hangs candy canes on the lobby Christmas tree for children. Photo by Andrew Schwartz

Sharon French watches over the other doormen and hangs candy canes on the lobby Christmas tree for children. Photo by Andrew Schwartz

“I could have opened a florist shop with all the flowers I received,” she said. “It was really sweet to know that I was missed, thought about and that they were looking forward to me coming back. A lot of the tenants came to hospital to visit me. They were so nice and supportive.”

With her cancer in remission, French is back to the job she loves, on 14th Street and Fifth Avenue. One of the friends she has made over the years is fellow employee Jose Barquet, the building handyman, who has known French since she worked at the Army-Navy store around the corner from the building. He credits her popularity to the kindness and professionalism that define French’s work.

Being the only doorwoman on her building’s 17-person staff does not bother French. Nearly two decades ago, when then-building superintendent Augustine Barquet brought her on board, she remembers asking him why he was hiring a woman for a position predominantly held by men. Barquet told French that there’s a special personal touch and feeling of home with a doorwoman behind the front desk. French agrees.

“Being the only female there, I have to look out for them the only way a woman would, by being a nurturer in the building,” she said.

That includes keeping tabs on the other doormen she works with and hanging candy canes on the lobby Christmas tree because she knows how much the children enjoy them.

A single mother, French and her two sons—Christopher, 16, and foster son Jonathan, 15, who joined her family almost a year ago—live in Harlem. Her boys, who are best friends and juniors at NEST+M high school, keep her busy. The family enjoys taking in sporting events like basketball and baseball, watching movies and having family barbecues and picnics. Now that high school is almost over, French is in the thick of helping her sons prepare for college—yet another milestone she plans to share with her extended building family.

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