H. Phil Pearce
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Proud Marine, husband, father and grandfather, farmer, banker, politician, civic leader and life-long harness horse enthusiast H. Phil Pearce, 91, of Cloverland Farm, Hawthorne Township, White County, IL died Friday, February 28, 2014 at Hamilton Pointe in Newburgh, IN.
Phil was born January 3, 1923 at Carmi, IL, the son of Tice Albert Pearce and Helen Hanna Pearce.
Raised on the Hanna Family's Cloverland Farm near Epworth, IL, Phil was an 18 year old sophomore engineering student at Millikin University of Decatur, IL, when he enlisted in the U S Marine Corps. Phil was signed up in the reserves and assigned to the Navy-Marine Corps V-12 program to continue his studies until he was called up to officer's training. Phil spent six months as a Private at Miami (Ohio) University before going to Parris Island for Boot Camp. He graduated from the sole Marine Special Officer Candidate Course (SOCC) at Camp Lejeune, NC. Second Lieutenant Pearce was sent to join the U.S. invasion of Okinawa of April 1, 1945 as an infantry platoon leader. He went ashore as part of the 32nd draft, First Battalion, Fifth Regiment, First Division and was assigned to Baker Company. After days of heavy battle and massive casualties, Pearce's Baker Company, along with Able and Charlie Companies, finally secured Hill 79 on June 21, 1945, after which Okinawa was officially declared secure. The 22 year old Pearce was awarded a Navy Cross for his heroism on May 11, 1945 at Wilson's Ridge and Draw in the effort to take Shuri Castle.
Pearce was sent to China after the war's end and returned to Cloverland Farm April 14, 1946 after being discharged from the Marine Corps and rejoining the Marine Reserve as a First Lieutenant that same day.
Upon his return stateside, Phil returned to Millikin to graduate with a degree in industrial engineering in the spring of 1947. He returned to White County where he operated the local Standard Oil bulk fuel plant and owned the Massey-Harris farm implement dealership. He was called to active duty in 1951 during the Korean War, which forced him to sell both the bulk plant and the implement dealership. He returned the final time to farm the family owned Cloverland Farm which was established in 1808 in Hawthorne Township. He eventually retired from the Marine Corps Reserves as a full Colonel.
Devoted to community service, he was a past commander of White County Post 3851, Veterans of Foreign Wars, in Carmi, and a member of the American Legion, V.F.W. and Elks. He was President and Chairman of the Wabash Valley Association.
Also active in the business sector, along with managing a large farm, he was Past Chairman and longtime Board Member of the First National Bank of Carmi, Illinois, now known as FirstBank. He was also a Board Member and original investor in Elastec/American Marine in Carmi.
His abiding passion was for racing and breeding standard bred trotters and pacers. Racing under the green and white Cloverland Farm silks, he stood stallions, had as many as 70 broodmares, and raced primarily trotters throughout Illinois, Kentucky and Indiana. He eventually partnered with Buddy Simpson's Fairfield, IL BattleShoe Farms with Phil handling the breeding and Buddy the training and driving. Phil served as Secretary/Treasurer and longtime active member of the Egyptian Colt Stakes, and as President of the Illinois Standardbred Owners and Breeders Association and the Illinois Harness Horseman's Association. In addition, Phil followed the Hanna family tradition of serving on the Board of the White County Fair including long stints as Speed Superintendent and President. He also lent his expertise at building lightning fast racecourses to Midwest Harness and other area horse tracks.
Also active politically and a lifelong Republican, he served as President and Board member of the Big Prairie School District before unification and as the elected Hawthorne Township Supervisor for many years.
His family describes Phil as a most kind, generous and gentle man to whom family and community were of upmost importance.
He is survived by his wife of 30 years, Carol (Winchester) Pearce. He is also survived by his daughter Drue Pearce and her husband Michael F G Williams of Anchorage, AK and Accokeek, MD, his stepchildren Charles Lynn Siegel and his wife Sandra of Evansville, Shannon Duncan and her husband Ron of Evansville, and Sherri Winchester of Frederick, MD. He had 7 grandchildren, Tate Hanna Pearce-Williams, Chris and Evan Siegel, Malynda Howard and her husband Pat, Alisha Duncan, Kyle Scales and Koltin Gibbons and three Howard great-grandchildren, Danny, Paige and Aiden.
Phil was preceded in death by his Mother, Helen Hanna Pearce, his father, Tice Albert Pearce, two daughters, Ann and Jill, with Julia Detroy Pearce from whom he was later divorced, his second wife, Wanda Chapman Pearce, and his Uncle, William Philip "Uncle Bill" Hanna.
The family would like to thank his many, many friends and colleagues for their generosity during Phil's illness. Their thoughts and prayers sustained Phil and his family during his final weeks of life. Jeff Whitler, Kent Williams, Frank Musgrave, Kenny Winter, Dr. Jim Zieren, Jeff Bohleber, Gary Bartley, Jr., Brenda Ryder, and Laurie Frazier deserve special mention for their help and support. Thank you also to Father Ted Temple for his visits and prayers and to the nursing staff at Hamilton Pointe's Unit 700 for their compassion. They include Rebecca, Faith, Josh, Julie, Jayne, Julea and Roshaun.
Funeral services will be held at 10 AM Thursday, March 6, 2014 at Big Prairie United Methodist Church in Hawthorne Township. Visitation will be at Campbell Funeral Home in Carmi, Illinois, Wednesday, March 5 from 4 - 8 PM and at Big Prairie Church after 9 AM Thursday. Burial will be in Big Prairie Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to Big Prairie United Methodist Church or Shriners Childrens Hospital of St. Louis and will be accept at Campbell Funeral Home in Carmi.
Published in Courier Press on Mar. 3, 2014