Oct. 18, 1917 – Jan. 11, 2014
Mary Elizabeth French Pearson, a longtime Woodland resident, died peacefully on Jan. 11, 2014. Mary Betty, as she was known from childhood, was born on Oct. 18, 1917, in Lawrence, Kan., to Will and Mary Alice French. The oldest of three children, she lived in several cities in the Midwest and California, and in New York City as her father took positions in public school administration and ultimately a professorship at Teachers College at Columbia University.
Mary Betty attended Stephens College and the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), and graduated from USC. She was a member of Pi Beta Phi.
In 1940, she married Woodring Pearson, M.D., in the Congregational Church in Meredith, N.H., near her family’s summer home. They moved to New York City, and then to San Francisco, as he began his surgical internship at Cornell and UC Medical Center. During her husband’s naval service in the Pacific campaigns of World War II, she moved with her infant son to New York City. At the end of the war, she moved back to San Francisco with her husband and son, where Woody completed his surgical residency and they had two more sons.
In 1949, Mary Betty, Woody and their expanding family moved to Woodland, where her husband joined the Woodland Clinic as a surgeon. By 1953, Woody and Mary Betty had had two daughters, completing their family. Mary Betty was involved in her children’s many activities, serving as room mother, in the PTA, Little League, Brownies and Scouts, Rainbow Girls and the AFS Exchange program; she attended countless swim meets, horse shows, theater productions, wrestling matches, baseball games and other sports events.
Mary Betty, an excellent and adventuresome cook, was an early advocate of California’s healthy and fresh foods. She was an accomplished seamstress, an avid reader and walked 5 miles a day into her 90s. She was a longtime member of PEO Chapter IX, Shakespeare Club and the Woodland Hospital Auxiliary, and well into her 80s, she volunteered at the Adult Day Health Care, taking care of “older” people.
Mary Betty and Woody were longtime members of the United Methodist Church of Woodland, serving on boards and committees, participating in the Emmaus movement, and acting as Stephen Ministers. When Woody retired, they traveled extensively in Europe, the Middle East and India studying history, art and architecture, and enjoying the foods and wines of those regions. They also traveled throughout the United States, pursuing their interests in family genealogy and history.
In the 1990s, Mary Betty and Woody often spent time New Hampshire, returning to the lake house where they first met. After Woody’s death in 2003, Mary Betty continued to live independently until she moved to St. John’s Retirement Village.
Mary Betty is survived by her five children and their spouses, Stephen (Betsey) of Carmel; Bill (Greta) of Berkeley; Malcolm (Linda) of Fairbanks, Alaska; Jane Shelby (Sam) of Nashville, Tenn.; and Ann Franke (Carl) of Woodland; her grandchildren, Andrew and Evan Shelby, and Matthew, Thomas, Marcus and Holly Pearson; her three great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. In addition to her husband, she was predeceased by her parents, and her brothers William and John.
A memorial service will be held at the United Methodist Church, 212 Second St. in Woodland, on Saturday, Jan. 18, at 2 p.m. The family requests no flowers but those who wish may make memorial gifts to St. John’s Retirement Village, 135 Woodland Ave., Woodland, CA 95695; to the PEO Foundation, 3700 Grand Ave., Des Moines, IA, 50312; to the Woodland United Methodist Church, 620 North St., Woodland, CA 95695; or to Yolo Hospice, 1909 Galileo Court, Davis, CA 95618.