GEORGE W. PEARSON, A MODEST HERO. By Mary Nassar Breymaier. Bihl House Publishing. 200 pages. $10.
George Pearson didn't see himself as a civic hero. A veteran Blade reporter who spent much of his career covering East Toledo and eastern Lucas County, Mr. Pearson certainly considered himself a journalist, not a crusader. But his legacy lives - the cottonwoods, the ashes, the red maples, the oaks, the sycamores, the wildflowers, and the trails - that today collectively bear his name as Pearson Metropark.
Pearson - the park - is a beautiful oasis of green that predates the city of Oregon which surrounds it, and it was Pearson -the man - who rightly gets the credit for saving the land for posterity and future generations.
His story is told in an engaging book, George Pearson, a Modest Hero, by Toledoan Mary Nassar Breymaier, a teacher at the West Side Montessori Center. Its 200 pages are an easy and quick read, especially for anyone with an appreciation for local history and the determination of one man to make a difference.
Pearson worked for The Blade from 1893 until 1947, an amazing span of loyal service virtually unheard of in today's mobile society.
For 50 of his 54 years at The Blade, he wrote a daily column called “East Side News.” Along the way, Pearson's stories educated his readers about his part of town, e.g., how the Waite High School athletic teams became the Indians, and why Toledoans east of the Maumee River prefer to say they're from the “East Side” rather than East Toledo.
The book notes that monuments to Pearson's good deeds were evident all over the East Side - bleachers for Waite High School, the establishment of an East Side YMCA, his years of work with the Boy Scouts.
But it was his journalistic campaign to save what were known as the “Bank Lands” that he is most remembered for today. Quoting liberally from Pearson's own column and from old news clippings from The Blade and other area papers, Ms. Breymaier reconstructs the sequence of events that sparked a civic outpouring of support, financial and otherwise, for the project.
Keep in mind, these were the early 1930s, when the Depression robbed many of what few resources they had. Yet the funds for acquisition poured in, from rich and poor alike, in large part because Pearson kept beating the drums.
And although journalist Pearson, in his reporting, minimized his own role in the process, it was no secret to the community. Nor were his tireless endeavors overlooked by the old Metropolitan Park Board, which surprised him with a special dinner in 1934 to announce that the area's newest park would be known as Pearson Park.
Author Breymaier's research is meticulous, pulling together a narrative that without her efforts might never have been told in this detail. She relates a telling quote of Pearson's, from a 1943 interview, in which he shares his basic philosophy that “Life amounts to nothing unless existence is used as an instrument to leave the world better than one found it.”
Without question George Pearson lived by that belief, and it is equally certain that he left the East Side and all of Toledo a better place than he found it.
No wonder - and how fitting - that the eulogy at George Pearson's funeral in 1955 was delivered by his former boss, a nationally respected journalist with a reputation of his own, longtime Blade Editor Grove Patterson.
Mary Nassar Breymaier's diligent recounting of George Pearson's life and his contributions to his beloved East Side adds greatly to the record of this region's rich history.
Thomas Walton is Editor and Vice President of The Blade and himself an East Sider.