JACK PEARSON: 1953–2017
Beloved longtime CMN member Jack Pearson died in early January 2017. His death deeply touched the CMN community, and his loss was made even more poignant by the moving reflections that Jack’s son, Peter, posted on his blog. Memorial celebrations were held in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 6 and Mount Hermon, California on May 21. Paul Nye and Liz Hannan shared their impressions with the Forum, printed below with their permission.
I attended Jack’s Minneapolis memorial celebration on May 6. I haven’t been to too many memorial services that were funny, yet tearful and deep, but Jack’s was an absolute celebration of his life. His wife, Nancy, spoke (she could be a stand-up comedian). Jack’s daughter, Kari, and son, Peter, spoke, along with several others. I thought I knew a lot of Jack stories, but the speakers had the almost 500 people attending practically in stitches.
Jack’s body of work is a testament to his work ethic and popularity, not to mention his skill and creativity. He performed over 11,000 concerts, recorded seventeen CDs, and authored five books…and it was all for our enjoyment. Quite an accomplishment. Jack was the real deal, a one-of-a-kind, creative, talented guy. I don’t like throwing around terms like “unique,” because we really aren’t. But in my eyes, Jack was a unique human being in that he had so much love and kindness in his heart for all people. In the fifty years that I knew him, I never once heard him speak negatively about any other person. What a beautiful soul! There hasn’t been a day since his passing where I haven’t thought of Jack. One closing thought: one of the speakers in Minneapolis recalled that when he asked Jack what his biggest goal was in life, Jack responded, “I want to grow old.” At age sixty-three, Jack left us with so much, but way too soon.
I was fortunate to attend a good portion of the memorial for Jack Pearson on May 21 at Mount Hermon. The sanctuary accommodates 550 guests, and it was pretty full. Debbie and Wiley Rankin and Dennis and Linda Ronberg also were in attendance. It was fun to see so many men of all ages wearing plaid shirts and wild suspenders to honor Jack’s trademark.
The service was simple and charming. A friend would share a collection of events, and then one of Jack’s songs would fill the sanctuary as everyone’s heart, mind, and spirit filled with love, pride, and gratitude for the friendship and the joy.
Jack was the camp troubadour for twenty-six years. At one point while listening to one of his songs, the energy in the room grew and glowed. I witnessed people of all ages doing hand motions, body bouncing, and head bobbing as they looked at each other with nods of shared memories and connections.
I have been a music director in my church for thirty-seven years. Never have I seen anything bring generations of people together into a common suspension of the present, transport them into a magical arena of shared remembrance, and create a transfiguration that placed love, joy, and light on everyone’s face. It all reflected a man who truly could change a gathering with his ministry of presence.
It is evident that the seeds he planted in the souls of so many will forever grow and extend his magic throughout eternity. What a blessing he was, is, and will forever be.