Georgene Pearson

Obituary of Georgene Leone Pearson

Georgene L. Pearson passed away peacefully at home in Edmonds WA, surrounded by the love of her family, on Sunday, February 11, 2024.

She was a model for embracing the world and touched many lives along the way, gifting all she knew with a grace, spirit, love and empathy that few can match. With a sharp intellect, Gene was an avid reader, educator, life-long learner, and fast walker; chef supreme; lover of nature, history, and the arts; a woman of faith and family.

Born Georgene Leone Zapel in 1939 to a close knit family in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago, she was the namesake of her father George and mother Leona, and the much younger sister of Russell and Eleanor, with whom she maintained a foundational lifelong bond.  

Her adventures started very young, including with neighborhood pals and riding the buses and trolleys across the city to one of her favorite spots, the Chicago Natural History Museum, making those travels and transfers by herself beginning at the remarkable age of 6.  The freedom and independence her parents taught her became a hallmark of self-sufficiency throughout her life.

On a blind date, Gene met the love of her life, the Rev. Paul R. Pearson from faraway California, whom she married in 1960 after only 8 months of dating.  Through a life of exploration, change, and travel, they were closely bonded for 53 years of marriage until his passing.

After early years of frequent moves traversing North America, they raised three children, the driving force and focus of their time, attention, and love.  Gene and Paul always managed to provide a rich family life with nightly dinners around the family table, warm and wonderful holidays, and even annual month-long summer camping trips (+ anytime there was a school break).  The group explored much of the United States and Canada covering 80%+ of states and provinces and enjoyed countless enriching experiences, for which their children are eternally grateful.

In the early 1970s, Gene went on to finish her undergraduate degree and re-enter the work force, not necessarily an accepted endeavor for mothers at that time.  But she had always known she would teach and jumped in with both feet, taking on a full-time job to self-fund her education while carrying a full-time course load. And all while also supporting the ministry of her husband who was the pastor of Stony Point Presbyterian Church, where they discovered a close church family.  

With her teaching degree in hand, Gene opted to direct her talents to some of the most challenged of residential learners, first at the Helen Hayes Rehabilitation Hospital in West Haverstraw NY, then at the private Matheny School in Peapack NJ, as Director of Education. She found her final teaching home at Sunnymead Elementary School in Hillsborough Township NJ, spending the next 20+ years as a Reading Specialist and Resource Room Teacher and going on to earn her masters degree and beyond.  She loved the opportunity to share her joy of reading, discuss her students' often impressive insights into the Jr. Great Books series, mentor her fellow teachers for whom she held great affection, and have her own space on the education team to both assess and enable advanced learners as well as those with learning disabilities.

Gene was a long-time member of Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church in NJ, as both a parishioner and church elder. For over 25 years, she and Paul were enthusiastic participants in a book group formed from within the BRPC congregation, relishing the rich discussions and friendships they developed and valued.

After their children were grown, Gene and Paul went on to travel as a couple to many parts of the world as well as continually discover new and interesting areas of the US. In their final years together, Gene provided loving care for Paul, moving from NJ to Edmonds.  In her last seven years, she persevered though her own illness, demonstrating bravery, practicality, and resilience.  

Gene is survived by her three children and their spouses- Craig and Claire, Brad and Robin, and Erin and Michael; five grandchildren- River, Sam, Katie, Madeline, and Jordan; and six nieces and nephews.  With deep gratitude, Gene is forever loved, missed immeasurably, and admired for a life well lived.

For those wishing to express sympathy, the family welcomes shared memories on the Tribute Wall, and if desired a donation to one of Gene's favorite charities may be made in her name:
Doctors Without Borders,
Habitat for Humanity,

Heifer International,

Nature Conservancy,

Northwest Neighbors Network,

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