If John Pearson's wife had to name his fault, it was that he was maybe too eager to do right — sometimes, in her words, annoyingly so. He hardly ever cursed and was almost unable to tell a lie, even a small one. His pockets were full of pieces of trash he picked up throughout his day. And he was generous with his time, often staying late after school to share his love of science with his students.
"Sometimes he made me frustrated because he was just so good," said MauNghi Pearson, his wife of 23 years. "I'd say to him, 'Can't you just be a normal person — at least say some bad words or something?'"
Pearson, a longtime physics and chemistry teacher and robotics coach at Southwest High School in Minneapolis, died July 28 of heart failure after struggling with an unknown illness for five months. He was 62.
John Pearson grew up in northeast Minneapolis and graduated from Augsburg College before going to graduate school at the University of Minnesota. He started his career at NASA before trading the lab for a classroom, where he spent about three decades teaching science at Southwest.
"He had a fierce love for chemistry and physics, and if you didn't understand an analogy he was using, he had 10 more that might get the point across," said Teresa Rumppe, a biology teacher at Southwest. "Every conversation with John was 10 minutes longer than you expected, but you could not deny his enthusiasm."
John met MauNghi after renting his duplex to her father and siblings when they first moved to Minnesota from Vietnam. MauNghi remembered how much her father talked about a kind man named John and she thought he was pretty cute when they first met up. Their first date was to see the movie "My Best Friend's Wedding." A year later, they had their own wedding. They have two children, Eric Pearson and Anna Pearson.
"I wanted 20 more years with him," MauNghi said. "He had such a big, kind heart. Maybe it's time for his heart to rest."
John's sister, Annie Pearson, said she keeps thinking about how John's life felt too short. But she also reflects on the gratitude he so often expressed, whether while watching the sunset on one of their many horseback rides or even from his hospital bed.
"The fact is that if you can be kind or if you can do something to take care of others," Annie Pearson said, "even if you just pick up a piece of litter, you have had a life well lived, however long it is."
Visitation is set for 5 to 7 p.m. on Sunday at Billman Hunt Funeral Home, 2701 Central Av. NE. in Minneapolis. A service will be held at 11 a.m. on Monday at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, 835 2nd Ave. NW. in New Brighton.