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Life Story / Obituary
In Game 3 of the 1932 World Series, a New York Yankees outfielder by the name of George Herman “Babe” Ruth pointed his bat toward Wrigley Field’s center field bleachers as he stepped into the batter’s box. Ruth clobbered the next pitch into the seats he had just indicated, giving birth to the now-famous “called shot” narrative. The Yankees completed the four-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs the next afternoon; the World Series loss was the Cubs’ second in four years.
Although the city of Chicago would struggle through the Great Depression—and two more Cubs’ World Series losses—for the remainder of the decade, 1932 was a happy year for the growing family at 32 E. 101st Street. Clarence Pearson was a Cubs fan and a newly-hired city fireman, while his wife Margaret was a homemaker and mother to their four year-old son Ron. Less than two months and twenty miles removed from Ruth’s famous gesture, the Pearsons welcomed a second son into the world: David Owen Pearson was born at home on November 12th, 1932.
Growing up in the city meant an abundance of playmates for David. Most of his early childhood friends lived within a block or two of the Pearson home, where every family seemed to have four or five children. The streets were filled with ball games, bicycles, and flying kites by day, followed by evening games of hide-and-seek.
Clarence and Margaret gave birth to a third son, also Clarence, in 1936. The boys attended Bennett Grammar School, which—as was the case with most of their world to that point—was within walking distance of home. David often recalled returning home from school in the afternoon to find “Ma” waiting with homemade dessert and glasses of milk, eager to hear about the school day. Many of David’s lifelong friends came from the neighborhood and grammar school, notably Ron Grant, Ray Etcheid, Jerry Kearney, Pete Dimmer, Bob Pertile, and Harold Franzen.
By the time he was ten, David had begun work as a newspaper delivery boy with his friend Ray. Together, they would deliver over three hundred papers every day and collect a dime per month from each customer as payment. David followed his brother Ron to work at Walus grocery store a few years later, where duties included fetching orders for customers and making home deliveries by bicycle. The majority of the boys’ wages were surrendered to their mother, as the effects of the Depression lingered long after Roosevelt’s New Deal.
The Pearson household welcomed their final member in 1943, a daughter Elizabeth, and the only one of the four children to be born in a hospital. A few years later, David began classes at the recently-opened Chicago Vocational High School, which the Chicago Tribune reported as being “widely regarded as the most modern and best equipped trade school in the United States.” At Vocational, David enjoyed his various shop classes and majored in mechanical drafting. He continued his education after graduation in 1950 with an additional year or two of classes at Thorton Junior College.
Despite the close of World War II, Congress passed the Selective Service Act of 1948, requiring all men between the ages of 18 and 26 to register as military conscription candidates. Nearly two million young men were drafted to serve during the Korean War (’50 – ’53). Along with his close friends Ron Grant and Harold Franzen, David elected to enlist in the Air Force in June of 1952 rather than chance the Draft. Training took him to San Antonio and Denver, while overseas stops included Morocco, the Bermuda and Azores Islands, England, and northeastern Canada. Due to his excellent depth perception, David spent his time in the air as a remote turret gunner on a B-36 “Peacemaker” and later a boom operator on a KC-197 midair refueling plane. He was honorably discharged after his four years of service in the summer of 1956.
David returned home to Chicago and found work as a supervisor in the wire mill department at Republic Steel. The following year, his sister Elizabeth suggested that their neighbor’s coworker and daily ride, a young woman by the name of Geraldine Olson, should go out on a date with Clarence due to their similar ages. The neighbor knew the Pearson boys well, and countered that David might be a better fit for Gerry. After countless dates to the movies, bowling alleys, and dance halls of south Chicago, David gave Gerry the best birthday present a girl could ask for—a diamond ring.
Evergreen Country Club hosted over 200 guests to celebrate David and Gerry’s marriage on the evening of May 7th, 1960. The new Mr. and Mrs. Pearson bought a house and dreamed of starting their own family. On July 21st, 1961, their daughter Susan Beth was born, followed by their son, Steven Owen, on July 29th of 1966. David’s job at the steel mill paid well and Susan had started school down the block, but the idea of raising their family in the city had become less appealing.
In the fall of 1966, they made the decision to move with Gerry’s parents to their vacation home on Lake Cora in southwest Michigan. David packed up his bride, five year-old Sue, and three month-old Steve, and drove around the southern tip of Lake Michigan. Without guaranteed employment and at the expense of living with his in-laws, David had made what he frequently called one of best decisions of his life—one so impactful that he and Gerry quietly celebrated their move out of Chicago for fifty consecutive Octobers.
A new start in Michigan brought with it new challenges for the Pearsons. After a few weeks of searching, David hired into the Upjohn Company in Kalamazoo as a janitor at $33/week, barely a third of what he had earned at the steel mill. He was quickly promoted into the lab as a Chemical Researcher, but completing the twenty-five mile commute to work that first winter was rarely easy. What seemed to be endless snowfall made travel difficult, and there were many mornings that David marched through the cold to catch a ride at the nearest plowed road. A half-century later, the single day record for snowfall in Kalamazoo is still 18.1” from January 27th, 1967.
David and his family settled into a less hectic life, where his free time was spent fishing and boating on Lake Cora, completing his many wood working projects, rooting on his beloved Chicago Cubs, and watching his kids grow. David and Gerry became active in the Lions Club and the United Methodist Church in town. Sue and Steve both graduated from nearby Lawrence High School, Steve from the University of Michigan, and both had married by the end of the 1980s. David was most proud of his children and their accomplishments, and did not hesitate to share as much with anyone that would listen. Sue and Steve brought further joy to David and Gerry in the form of three grandchildren: Michael (Sue), and Megan and Emily (Steve).
After nearly thirty years with Upjohn, David retired in 1996. He was able to redouble his efforts in his wood shop, from which he turned out countless end tables, bookshelves, benches, nightstands, cabinets, and trinkets for his grandchildren over the next dozen years. Retirement also provided ample time for golf—a game that David never quite conquered but thoroughly enjoyed sharing with his friends and family—and numerous vacations with friends Ron and Roberta Grant, and Harold and Dorothy Franzen.
David and Gerry built a home next to the original lake house in 1999, and welcomed Sue, her husband Jim, and grandson Michael as neighbors as they took charge of the old home. Steve and his wife Sue, along with granddaughters Megan and Emily, purchased the land directly across the street some ten years later and built a home in 2013. For the better part of the last five years, David was literally surrounded by his family.
On November 2nd of last year – 13,144 games after David’s birth and less than six months before his passing – the impossible happened. The Cleveland Indians’ right fielder, Michael Martinez, hit a ground ball to Cubs’ third basemen Kris Bryant, who fired across the diamond to Anthony Rizzo at first. David was asleep at home next to Gerry, having turned off the game after Chicago had squandered a late three-run lead, but he awoke the next morning to find his that his lifelong wish had been granted: the Chicago Cubs had won the World Series.
Though the twilight years of his life were occasionally difficult, David still found great enjoyment in sampling whichever new restaurant had just opened, playing the penny slots at nearby casinos, and tirelessly following the Cubs. He didn’t need extravagant things to make him happy. A meat and potatoes dinner, a pontoon boat ride around the lake, a daily newspaper, a good book, or knowing that his family was nearby was all he needed to make his life complete. His life was indeed complete.
David Pearson, age 84, of Lawrence died on Sunday, April 30, 2017 surrounded by his family. On May 7, 1960 he married Gerry Olson at Tabor Lutheran Church in Chicago and together they enjoyed nearly 57 years of marriage. Members of his family include his wife Gerry, 2 Children: Sue (Jim) Colleran and Steve (Sue) Pearson, 3 grandchildren: Michael (Jessica) Colleran, Megan and Emily Pearson, a sister: Elizabeth (Daniel) Paulsen. He was preceded in death by 2 brothers Ronald and Clarence. Visit with family and friends on Thursday from 6-8 pm at the Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler & Thompson, 60900 M-40, Paw Paw (657-3870). Private services will be held and Dave will be buried at the Wildey Cemetery. Please visit Dave’s personal web page at www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to the Lawrence United Methodist Church.