PLEASANTON — The city has lost an old friend and trailblazing advocate.
Former Mayor Robert Pearson died on Nov. 3 in Medford, Oregon. He was 90 years old.
Known for his strong opinions and unwavering commitment to his community, Pearson arrived on the political scene in Pleasanton in 1970, where he quickly became a vocal critic of fast growth. At the time, Pleasanton was a sleepy hamlet of approximately 18,000 residents. Pearson, seeing the writing on the wall regarding city leaders' push to expand, jumped into the legislative arena with both feet.
"Bob was a rather unique individual that had very strong feelings about Pleasanton and the Valley and the way it should grow," said longtime friend Chuck Seymour. "In many respects, he set the tone for people that were yet to involve themselves in city politics concerning Pleasanton's growth and future. He was very forceful and outgoing with his comments, and he wasn't shy or bashful about expressing them. He was good at taking the criticism."
So good in fact, that his run for city council in 1970 landed him in the mayor's seat where he advocated for the city to work on its general plan and implement infrastructure ahead of rooftops.
"He liked the original small-town atmosphere; he was from a small town in Oregon himself and didn't want Pleasanton to turn into the Santa Clara Valley," said his son, Edmond.
After four years on the city council, Pearson turned his attention to the growing Zone 7 water district, and in 1974 became a board director. There, he continued his support and advocacy for his town and its residents.
But for those who remember him best, Pearson was more than a political force: he was a man who loved music, his family and a good story.
"They were a lovely family, " said Alice Morrison, a family friend. “Bob loved the Big Bands. He and my husband would listen to their records for hours on end, and we would go hear any that came to the Bay Area. He was a lot of fun."
Highly educated, he earned bachelor’s and master's degrees in chemistry from the University of Nevada, Reno, and a doctorate in physical chemistry from UC Davis. Pearson, his wife Helene and their three sons, Edmond, John and Christopher, moved to Pleasanton in 1968, where he ran the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Lab at Kaiser Aluminum and Chemicals Corporation. After leaving Kaiser, he served as vice president of Auburn International, running its NMR division before starting his own research and consulting company, Tri-Valley Research. In 1996, Pearson and Helene moved to Medford, where they eventually retired.
“For a kid from southern Oregon, he did pretty well,” said Edmond. “He was the first generation in his family to go to college, and he went on to get a doctorate … he was an incredibly bright guy. Professionally, and politically, Dad probably could have gone quite a bit further. But he turned down offers, in both areas, because of the impact it would have had on our family. Both my parents always put family above everything else.”