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Tunch Ilkin's wife loses battle with breast cancer

Sharon Ilkin had one up on her husband, Tunch, who played 12 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and went to the Pro Bowl twice.

She made the cover of Sports Illustrated.

"My buddies were always busting my chops," said Tunch Ilkin, her husband of 30 years.

A cheerleader at Indiana State University, she appeared on the Nov. 28, 1977, cover of Sports Illustrated with basketball great Larry Bird, who also attended Indiana State.

Sharon A. Ilkin of Upper St. Clair died Monday, Feb. 6, 2012, after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 55.

A teacher, Mrs. Ilkin loved children and gardening, her husband said.

"She loved antiques, old houses," he said. "She liked adventure ... was always up for a road trip."

The couple met at Indiana State, where he played football.

"She was like sunshine," her husband said. "She was absolutely beautiful and didn't know it."

Mrs. Ilkin "loved deeply," he said. "She made everyone feel like they were close."

"Whether serving meals at the Light of Life (Rescue) Mission or attending a black-tie affair, she felt comfortable," he said.

Her battle with cancer was an inspiration to others, friends said.

"She was a little woman and one of the greatest warriors I had ever seen," said Cheryl Colussy of Upper St. Clair, a friend of 20 years. "She was a special woman."

Mrs. Ilkin's faith helped her through the toughest times, Colussy said.

"She loved the Lord. That was the driving force of her life," she said. "She loved life, she loved her family and she did everything she could to stay with them."

Her pastor said she set an example for others.

"She loved serving others and showed our church family what a godly woman looks like. Through her battle with cancer, her trust in Christ was a constant source of strength and courage for her, her family and her friends." said the Rev. Ron Moore, pastor at The Bible Chapel of the South Hills in Peters.

Judy Shine, of Upper St. Clair, a friend for 22 years, said she was "warm and genuine."

"She embraced people, made them feel comfortable. I think everybody thought they were her best friend."

In addition to her husband, Tunch, Mrs. Ilkin is survived by her children, Tanner, Natalie and Clay Ilkin; her mother, Marge Senefeld of Upper St. Clair; her brother, Jeff Senefeld of Austin; and her sisters, Kim Kelly of Tampa and Angela Duncan of Clearwater, Fla.

Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. today and Friday at Beinhauers, 2828 Washington Road in McMurray. A service to celebrate her life will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday in The Bible Chapel of the South Hills, 300 Gallery Drive in Peters. Interment will follow at Bethel Cemetery in Bethel Park.

Memorial donations may be made to the Light of Life Rescue Mission, 10 E. North Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

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