Frederick (“Rick”) Kingsley Sharpless
December 7, 1957 - August 13, 2023
Frederick Kingsley Sharpless, a much loved husband, father, colleague, and friend passed away in his home on August 13, 2023, at the age of 65 after a valiant 3-year fight against pancreatic cancer.
Rick was born on December 7, 1957 to Eric and Priscilla Sharpless in Lower Merion Township, PA. He grew up in Wayne, PA near Philadelphia with his younger siblings, Carolyn and Gordon, and attended Conestoga High School. A lover of the outdoors and a lifelong student, with the granite of New Hampshire in his muscles and his brains, he was a graduate of the Class of 1979 from Dartmouth College, where he majored in Government, played rugby, and was a Rufus Choate Scholar. There he met his wife and partner of more than 40 years, Nancy Bonar. After working as an ASE-certified auto mechanic in the Upper Valley while Nancy completed her studies, the couple moved to North Carolina where they married. Soon after, he began law school, and the couple celebrated the arrival of their first daughter, Jessica. Rick graduated second in his class with high honors as a member of the Order of the Coif from the University of North Carolina Law School in 1984, where he served as an Editor of the North Carolina Law Review. After graduation, Rick took an associate position at Tuggle Duggins in Greensboro, NC. Rick and Nancy purchased Chestnut Oak Farm, a horse training farm, in Climax, NC, where they lived until 2023, welcoming their second daughter, Holly in 1986. There they raised, most importantly their children, but also raised and trained many horses, dogs,and cats. They particurally enjoyed sharing the farm with their friends, clients, and important professionals. From 1990 to 2022, Rick was a founder then President of a boutique litigation specialty law firm before transitioning to practicing independently, which he continued until the time of his death. He most cherished his relationships with his wife and their daughters, serving his clients, and time well spent learning, exploring, and savoring good times. He will be missed by many.
A true Renaissance man, Rick actively pursued knowledge in the law, rhetoric, debate, literature, math, physics, mechanics, philosophy, and history, and he reveled in an intellectual conversation about any topic. Friends often referred to him as a walking encyclopedia.
Since childhood, Rick was tenaciously curious and valued being broadly capable, thus in his early years relishing the disassembly and sometimes reassembly of mechanical objects. Known to fashion a workbench out of the family dinner table (while his parents were out of town), he channeled his mechanical skills in his teenage years into a tan 1964 Corvair he drove and “improved”, cultivating his passion for working on cars. As an adult, he could be found fixing farm equipment, home appliances, and restoring a 1974 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Convertible.
Rick was born an adventurer - he loved spending time in his grandparents’ cabin in Passaconaway, NH and exploring the nearby mountains in his youth and beyond. He enjoyed Boy Scouts,ultimately becoming an Eagle Scout. In 1972, he embarked on his first National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) trip to the Rocky Mountains and would continue to go on wilderness trips with NOLS throughout his life, most recently in 2000, when he participated in a Sea Kayaking course, with Nancy and Holly, in NC. He traveled the world’s wonders, both manmade and natural, with his wife, family, and friends, visiting four continents, innumerable mountain ranges, and lakes and oceans. Throughout his life, Rick delighted in a challenge - “attacking” mountains “because they are there,” in hiking boots, crampons, or on skis, tackling lengthy mountainous bike races, and running marathons on roads and trails, including the New York City Marathon with both his daughters in 2011. On the water, he was happiest on a sailboat or canoe with Nancy - vessels that enabled them to explore.
Originally drawn to the study of law by his love of wordcraft, rhetoric and discourse, with a flair for performance and strategy, Rick held a deep passion for litigation. He authored numerous appellate briefs and tried over 60 first-chair jury trials, appearing before the North Carolina Court of Appeals, North Carolina Supreme Court, South Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, Alabama Supreme Court, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit - and was admitted to the United States Supreme Court. Rick loved to win, and was known for celebrating a great client outcome with Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” though colleagues also remember him as a “great loser,” philosophical and reflective when the desired verdict eluded him. Rick especially loved mentoring others and engaging with the broader legal community. He was a devoted member of the Dartmouth Lawyers Association (DLA), for which he served as a member of the board of directors for over 15 years and President from