‘Jock’ Pearson Lived a Busy, Happy Life
LOWELL -- John “Jock” Pearson Jr. had a motto: “Busy people are happy people.”
And, throughout his 69 years, friends and family say he lived by these words.
He was a businessman, home builder and former banker. He served on countless boards and, with his wife Lowell District Court Judge Barbara Pearson, supported a variety of nonprofits. He cared about family, deeply.
Even with all these commitments, friends said when you spoke to him you became “the center of his world.”
Jock Pearson, a Lowell resident, died April 7 of a heart attack.
“He packed so much into a life cut short,” said his daughter Ginger Pearson, during a remembrance of his life.
Jock Pearson was born in Lowell. He attended Belvedere School and later Cardigan Mountain School, a boarding school in Canaan, New Hampshire.
Years later, he would chair the Cardigan Mountain School’s Board of Trustees, one of many boards he sat on during his life.
“I tried. I couldn’t come up with a single nonprofit in the area that Jock and Barbara haven’t supported with their time, their good advice and their incredible financial generosity,” said Michael Gallagher, a prominent Lowell attorney and Pearson’s friend.
Cardigan Mountain School is also where Pearson first met his wife. Barbara Pearson recalled the moment in a letter addressed to her husband of 42 years. She read the letter aloud during the remembrance service.
“I watched you ski down Clancy Mountain,” she said. “Sally and I were frozen so we jumped into a wagon to warm up. You were so cute and everybody knew you.”
Jock Pearson finished high school at Worcester Academy and received a bachelors degree from University of Hartford. Years later, the two reconnected while attending Suffolk University Law School.
“I knew from the beginning, your mantra, busy people are happy people, was no joke,” said Barbara Pearson.
In the blizzard of 1978, when roads shut down in the state for days, Jock Pearson found a way to get from Lexington to his office in Lowell, she said.
Barbara Pearson said her husband had an “impish” smile. They played tennis together and had daily lunch dates.
About a week after the two moved to Lowell, philanthropist Nancy Donahue stopped them on the street and asked them what nonprofits they liked.
“She said two young professionals need to get involved, so we did,” Barbara Pearson said.
They joined the Merrimack Repertory Theatre board and their involvement in the community grew.
Jack O’Connor said when he moved from Tewksbury to Lowell over thirty years ago, Jock Pearson encouraged him to get involved with the theater.
“He not only cared about the community, but also a lot about people and his family,” O’Connor said.
His smile, O’Connor said, was infectious.
In his professional life, Jock Pearson was a senior partner with the law firm of Pearson & Pearson LLP, a business and patent law firm founded by his grandfather in 1901. He was also the president of Gateway Center Corporation. Pearson and his business partner Nels Palm built the Gateway Center in Lowell as well as hundreds of units of housing.
Palm and many others wore red ties to the remembrance service on Thursday, in honor of their friend who always wore red “power ties.”
Once on a visit to New York, Palm said Jock Pearson bought three styles of red ties and two back-ups of each, ultimately leaving the store with nine ties. For the first decade of his career, Pearson’s son, John Pearson III, also sported red ties.
Jock Pearson’s daughter, Ginger Pearson, remembered working at Butler Bank, where her father was the chief executive. She said she learned from him and they strategized together, sometimes in the office, sometimes at the beach.
His granddaughter, was the “apple of his eye,” Ginger Pearson said.
“They enjoyed sword fights, playing frisbee, squirt gun fights and reading together,” she said. “He would mediate debates between my mom and (his granddaughter) and he would always take (his granddaughter’s) side, no matter what.”
Attendees at Jock Pearson’s remembrance service recalled his many varied contributions to Lowell.
Chancellor of UMass Lowell Jacquie Maloney said Pearson was a “driving force” behind the Moses Greeley Parker Lecture Series.
Chairman of the Middlesex Community College Board of Trustees James Campbell and member Annie O’Connor both said Pearson, who served on the board in the 2000s, was a mentor to them.
Jody White, president and CEO of Circle Health and Lowell General Hospital, said Pearson supported his career. In his younger years, Pearson swept the floors of the hospital and eventually went on to sit on the hospital’s board, including two terms as chair.
“He was tenacious about work,” White said. “Work hard, play hard. Nothing happens by accident.”
Brian Stafford, an accountant who worked with Pearson, said no matter the problem, Pearson believed there was a way to fix it.
His friend always had the same response to the question “How are you?,” Stafford said.
“His patented response -- patented because it was a patent law firm -- was ‘fine and dandy,’” he said.
Next Pearson would ask about family, Stafford said.
“Once he made the important reference to the family, then it was business,” Stafford said.