CORNWALL, Ontario – Joan Pearson infected everyone around her with a fierce courage in the face of multiple sclerosis – so much so that a dear friend named her son after one of the corner stones of the local MS Society office.
“When I had Jay in 1989 I named him after her – her maiden name,” said Karen Torrie-Racine, of her son Jarrett. “She was the foundation of our chapter and who we are.”
Pearson was also a shoulder to lean on. Her battle against MS and the complications it can create ended Thursday when Pearson passed away. She was in her 70s.
Torrie-Racine, her voice quaking with emotion, said Pearson was a rock, despite being diagnosed in 1968.
“Joan was the first person I told when I was diagnosed in 1985,” said Torrie-Racine. “She and some other people with MS started our chapter in 1968 and she was still an active member of our board until about five years ago.”
After that the complications of living with MS, including scleroderma – a chronic hardening and contraction of the skin and connective tissue – began to take its toll as well.
“They were just more than she could handle,” said Torrie-Racine, who preferred to dwell on the way Pearson lived. “She was such a trooper.
“She taught me a lot and how to deal with living an autoimmune disease. You can be better than the illness and stronger than the illness. I’ve always strived to be – well, I can’t be half the person she was – but I want to live within her legacy.”
That legacy is expected to be debated by the local MS Society board soon, where it is expected one of the hallmark events the agency puts on will be renamed in Pearson’s honour.
“It was all about her kindness and her strength,” said Torrie-Racine.
Pearson is survived by her husband Gary and her children Lori (David) and Scott (Debbie) and grandchildren, Haylee Morgan, Chase and Trinity Pearson.
The funeral will be held on Tuesday Sept. 22 at 2 p.m.in the chapel of Wilson’s Funeral Home.