Friday, January 4, 2008

Robert Greenlees Pearson

With his wife, Betsy, children, Brad, Wendy and Ridley, their spouses and his grandchildren by his side, Bob Pearson died peacefully of "old age" in his home in Bellevue, Idaho, on Jan. 1, 2008.

Born the only child of somewhat nomadic parents, Ridley Stilson and Agnes Greenlees Pearson, on Feb. 19, 1917, Bob was not formally educated until the third grade. He took to academics easily, skipping grades and graduating from Kansas University at 18, where he served as editor of both the university's humor magazine and yearbook. A skilled writer, Bob was the focus of a national scandal when a Scribner's Magazine article, "Ghost Behind the Grade," published in 1938, revealed that he had paid his way through college by ghost-writing hundreds of grade-specific papers for fellow students in dozens of classes and seven universities. His writing led him to New York City where he went to work for the Shell Oil Co. in public relations, and later met his wife of 63 years, Betsy Dodge.

With the advent of World War II, Bob enlisted as an officer in the U.S. Navy, and was assigned aboard a destroyer escort as the ship's gunnery officer. He participated in numerous missions in conveys across the Atlantic. Bob wrote speeches for the admiral of the Navy, as well as for two presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman. His destroyer escort was part of the historic capture of a German U-boat, north of the Azores. It was the first submarine ever boarded and taken prior to the destruction of any of its hardware or it's Enigma radio codes—only days prior to D-Day, later immortalized in the motion picture "U-571." In 1945, he was honorably discharged, holding the rank of lieutenant commander.

Following the war, Bob and Betsy eventually settled in Riverside, Conn., where Bob was an avid runner and skier and served as senior deacon in the First Congregational Church of Greenwich. In his 38 years with Shell Oil, Bob's most notable accomplishments involved that company's sponsoring of major sports. Working with the NBC television network, Bob was instrumental in popularizing golf by bringing the sport to live television for the first time in "Shell's Wonderful World of Golf." He also participated in Shell's sponsorship of Craig Breedlove's pursuit of the world land speed record in a jet-propelled car, on the Bonneville Salt Flats in the mid-1960s.

But it was Bob's personal crisis that would prove to define his life. Beginning with his service in the Navy, Bob had grown addicted to alcohol and, some 20 years later, nearly died of alcoholism. He was encouraged by physicians to join a fledgling group called Alcoholics Anonymous, in Greenwich, Conn., in 1961. Bob P., as he was known in that organization, found sobriety and dedicated himself to AA service, even working on occasion with its co-founder, Bill W. He served on local and national boards of AA, and eventually was appointed general manager of AA's World Service Organization, where, for 10 years, 1974-1984, he oversaw the enormous international growth and spread of AA worldwide. The organization played an influential role in the establishment of over a hundred unrelated, so-called 12-step programs, which have resulted in millions' conquering various addictions. Through his service to AA, Bob P., with wife Betsy (a longtime member of Al-Anon), traveled the world, speaking to both small AA groups as well as at its international conventions of 50,000 or more attendees. His "AA story" was published as the closing story in "Alcoholics Anonymous," AA's "Big Book," which remains one of the most widely published and perennially best-selling books in the world.

Bob and Betsy moved part-time to Bellevue, Idaho, in 1980, soon making it their permanent home. Here, Bob P. continued to serve AA, both as a speaker and contributor to its national archives. Bob's life was defined by his dedicated service to Alcoholics Anonymous, an organization whose members depend on one another for their survival. His family wishes to extend their thanks to the hundreds of local AA members, and thousands of national members, who supported Bob's sobriety, gave him a charmed life, and who continue the great traditions of this wonderful and necessary organization.

A memorial celebrating Bob P.'s service in Alcoholics Anonymous will be held Friday, Jan. 11, (check local flyers) in Sun Valley, Idaho; a public memorial for friends and family will take place at the Church of the Big Wood, Ketchum, Idaho, at 4 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 12. Donations in Bob's name will be gratefully accepted by the Sun Club, Ketchum, Idaho.

(The entire Pearson family wishes to extend their gratitude to Drs. Hall and Fairman, Hospice and Palliative Care of the Wood River Valley, and especially Johnna Pletcher and Gloria Clark for their loving in-home care and assistance.)

 Local Weather 
Search archives:

Copyright © 2024 Express Publishing Inc.   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.