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Col. Ralph Jones Pearson (USAF Ret.)
Decorated WWII Veteran
01/22/1919 -- 05/09/2013
Ralph J. Pearson, retired Air Force Colonel and former resident of San Antonio and Austin, Texas, passed away peacefully with family by his side in California on May 9, 2013. Ralph was the father of the late Park Pearson, former San Antonio City Auditor and San Antonio KPMG Managing Partner. Park preceded his parents in death in December 2011. Ralph, the son of Jacob and Winifred Pearson, was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, where he met and courted his high-school sweetheart, Evlyn Belcher. Ralph grew up during the Depression and put himself through college and law school at Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis). In 1942, following law school, Ralph took the bar exam and immediately volunteered for the Army Air Corps. He trained as a navigator/bombardier on the newest American bomber, the B-29 "Superfortress." Like many young couples during the war who were unable to have traditional hometown weddings, Ralph and Evlyn married in a small ceremony near his training base in Austin, Texas in June 1943. Upon completing his training, he was shipped to the Pacific with his unit in the spring of 1944 shortly before the birth of his son Ralph J. Pearson, Jr. During the war, the young Lt. Pearson served in the China-Burma-India Theater, flying "the hump" ferrying fuel and bombs over the Himalayas, and flying 21 combat missions over Japan and other targets from advance bases in China. Ralph was the lead navigator on the first B-29 combat mission in the war, which coincided with D-Day on June 6, 1944. During the war and in his military years to follow, Col. Pearson received multiple promotions and numerous decorations including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, and Air Force Commendation Medal.
Ralph arrived home to Memphis from his combat tour on V.E. day in May 1945 where he was finally able to meet his 14 month old son, Ralph Jr. He spent the remainder of the war as a navigation instructor. After the war, Ralph transferred into the Air Force Judge Advocate General's Corps and spent the rest of his military career as an Air Force attorney, though remaining on active flight status. He served at Air Force bases in many locations including the Pentagon, Bermuda, Virginia, Germany, Illinois, and Texas. Ralph was stationed at Lackland AFB in San Antonio in the 1960's, and the children attended Lackland School, Lowell Jr. High, and Thomas Jefferson High School in San Antonio. After 30 years of service, on completing his final post as Staff Judge Advocate for the 12th Air Force at Bergstrom AFB in Austin, Ralph retired as a full Colonel. Following his military retirement, Ralph served as Editor-in-Chief of legal publications for the State Bar of Texas until 1976. He practiced law in Austin until 1980, and he served as Staff Attorney for the State Commission on Judicial Conduct until 1997. Ralph and Evlyn had a happy retirement together enjoying travelling with their wide network of friends, playing bridge and Texas 42, dancing, and spending time with their children and grandchildren. He continued to enjoy playing the piano, his daily 5 AM walks, his seasonal hunting trips with his sons and grandsons, and his annual family ski trips. After celebrating his 81st birthday on the ski slopes, Ralph finally decided to hang up his boots and retire from skiing. Ralph and Evlyn were long-time active members of Highland Park Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, where he was a regular and devoted member of his Men's Sunday School class. He was also an active member of the Austin Kiwanis Club, serving as President, and he served on the board of the Robert C. Harrington Foundation Fund. In 2010, Ralph and Evlyn moved to California to be near their daughter and her family.
Ralph was widely known for his integrity, his charm, his wonderful sense of humor and extraordinary gift with the English language, his devotion to family, and his attachment to the love of his life -- his beautiful blue-eyed bride Evlyn Belcher. Ralph and Evlyn celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary in the summer of 2012, three months before Evlyn passed away at age 93. In addition to his beloved wife Evlyn, Ralph was preceded in death by his sister Lois and brothers Jake, Jim, and Spencer, and two children -- daughter Evie Ferguson of Austin and son Park Pearson of San Antonio. Ralph is survived by his son Ralph Pearson Jr. and wife Louise Pearson, his daughter Mary Pless and husband Ben Pless, his daughter-in-law Nancy Pearson, his son-in-law David Ferguson and wife Pam Ferguson, grandchildren John Pearson, Blake Pearson, Hillary Murff, Graham Pearson, Abby Ferguson, Cameron Ferguson, Ben Ferguson, Evie Pless, and Rebecca Pless, five great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and extended family and friends. The family will receive friends from 12:30 P.M. to 1:00 P.M., Friday, May 24, 2013, at Porter Loring Mortuary North.
FRIDAY, MAY 24, 2013
PORTER LORING NORTH CHAPEL
Interment with Full Military Honors will follow in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. Memorial donations may be made to the Air Force Aid Society (https://www.afas.org/Tribute-Donation) or to the New England Air Museum 58th Bomb Wing Memorial (http://www.neam.org/images/58thdonationform.pdf), which maintains a database and exhibit on the men who flew B-29 bombers in the Pacific in World War II.
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Published in Express-News on May 19, 2013