A person who influenced my life: Jane Ford Pearson

I look back over my life, and realize that so many people have been such a GREAT part of me becoming who I am today. I want to write about each of them...or most of them (at the very least).

I first met Jane (Ford) Pearson when I was in the fourth grade at Brownsboro Junior High School, in rural Madison County, Alabama. Her mother, Mrs Ruth Ford, was the music teacher for the school...and she picked me to play the part of the "Great Pumpkin" for the Fall Festival...that was almost 40 years ago...and I still remember it as though it were yesterday...

Miss Jane came to the school, and remembers seeing me...and more than a year later, I would move to the new school district (Central) and would be in the 5th Grade with Jim Pearson (Jr), Miss Jane's son....

I was always the odd-child out...awkward, backward, and unwanted...

Sixth grade would find me in another school district (due to some parental squabbles and conflicts), and I would be back at Central School for the 7th grade...and again, my encounter with the Pearsons...

We lived up the road from the Pearsons in the Cedar Gap neighborhood. In my high school years, we always did our "class float" for the Homecoming Parade at the Pearson house....so much fun, so much work, and always late nights.

I remember when I was getting ready to look at colleges, how Mrs Pearson (Jane) told me that I "must go to college because you are certainly smart enough"...She convinced me that I could become just about anything that I had a desire to become...

That was more than 30 years ago. She has been my "mom" in just about every way that really matters. She has loved me, encouraged me, always welcomed me in her home...just too much to tell...

When I was stationed in South Korea (1990), I went shopping in downtown Seoul one day...and I found this gorgeous Korean dress/kimono...I knew that Jane would love it....so I did the "American thing" and bought it. I put it in the mail, and surprised her. She still has that dress, and still loves to tell the story of how I sent it to her.

I got to make two phone calls every Saturday evening to the United States over the "HAM radio" system at the Air Base....one of those calls was always to the Pearson house...and always with Miss Jane. This was such a treat for me, and for her as well. We had to say "over" every time we wanted to switch to the other party (because the HAM radio operators had to make sure we were hearing each other).

One of the saddest times of my life came in May 1992. I was stationed in Oslo, Norway, working for NATO and on active duty with the United States Air Force. I received word that my Grandmother Hoover was at the point of death, and I would need to get back to the States post-haste. This was long before the days of email, internet, cell phones, etc.

During the next two weeks, Jane Pearson was more than anything I could have asked for as a friend, confidant, and "mom." My Grandmother Hoover passed on to Heaven on Wednesday morning...the very next day, Jane was at the funeral home with me...talking with me, and making sure that I would "make it through." She came to get me after the funeral was over on Friday--and I stayed at her home that evening...I needed that...I desperately needed that.

I can't tell you how many times I've picked up the phone to call her...simply because I needed to talk to the most important woman in my life...

Now, she's having some dementia problems...but still calls me when she thinks about it. I call as often as I can...and I miss her terribly. Just about everything I've done in life (that has any value) I learned from Miss Jane. I learned almost all my "social graces" (the ones that I've displayed at least) sitting at her kitchen table. I learned the importance of preparing good meals, and how to iron a table cloth.

Jane Pearson did more for me becoming a confident man than anyone I can think of...I improved my musical skills--because she insisted that I could become a good musician. I improved my cooking skills---because she told me that I could become a great chef (which still remains to be seen). I worked on (and hopefully improved) my writing and communication skills--because I remember Miss Jane telling me to be anything I wanted--just not to be boring!

I really do owe Jane Pearson more than I could ever repay. To say I adore her is an understatement.

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