Friday, January 4, 2008

Writer Robert Pearson dies at 90

Community prepares memorials for leader of Alcoholics Anonymous

Express Staff Writer

Robert Greenlees Pearson served in the U.S Navy during World War II and traveled the world as spokesman for Alcoholics Anonymous. Photo by Mountain Express

Writer, veteran and community leader Robert Greenlees Pearson died in his Bellevue home at age 90 on Jan. 1, with his wife, children and grandchildren by his side.

Two memorials will be held in his honor in days to come—one for residents of the Wood River Valley, which he called home since 1980, and another for the international community of Alcoholics Anonymous, which he had served diligently since 1961.

Pearson was well known in the "12-step" recovery community in the Wood River Valley as "Bob P." He served for 10 years as general manager of AA's World Service Organization and wrote the closing story in the Alcoholics Anonymous "Big Book."

The "Big Book" includes personal stories filled with harrowing details of the trials and tribulations of alcoholics, as well as inspiring testimonies of their survival through participation in 12-step recovery groups.

Pearson's career as a writer began amid scandal in 1938 when Scribner's Magazine revealed that he had ghost-written hundreds of theme papers for fellow students at seven universities.

"Both the Associated Press and the United Press carried it," Pearson said in an interview with the Mountain Express in 2004. "It almost cost me my diploma."

Following the scandal, Shell Oil Co. put Pearson to work in its PR department, until he joined the U.S. Navy during World War ll. During the war, Pearson's destroyer escort was part of the historic capture of a German U-boat that contained the hardware and codes for the Enigma radio codes used by the Nazis. The capture took place north of the Azore Islands only days before D-Day.

Pearson also wrote speeches for Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, and for other top brass while in the Navy.

"I would not trade my Navy experience at that time for anything in the world," Pearson said in 2004.

Pearson's wife and two sons are also writers. Brad Pearson worked alongside his father on two books, and served as editor of Heartland magazine. Ridley Pearson is a best-selling author of more than 20 novel-thrillers, featuring the exploits of detective Lou Bolt and Daphne Matthews. His work has been translated into 40 languages.

Robert Pearson's wife, Betsy, wrote and illustrated a syndicated daily column for the New York Herald Tribune for 17 years.

A memorial celebrating "Bob P.'s" service in Alcoholics Anonymous will be held Friday, Jan.11, in Sun Valley, time and place to be announced on flyers at the Sun Club, 571 First Ave. in Ketchum. A public memorial will take place at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood in Ketchum at 4 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 12.

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