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  • "So saddened and shocked to hear the news of Barbara's..."
    - Coral Nolan
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  • "I first saw Barbara`s choreography in AS I LAY DYING at..."
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    - Johanna Brams
  • "Monday, July 23, 2018 Dear Victor, My deepest sympathy to..."
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BARBARA REA PEARSON, passed away on Monday, July 9, 2018, after suffering from cancer. She died with her loving husband Victor Willems by her side. She was a dancer, choreographer and educator, who grew up in Fort Wayne, and attended South Side High School. Pearson had extensive training in classical ballet, modern and theater dance, and was an authority on Renaissance, Baroque and other early dance forms. She was a mainstay of the arts community in her adopted hometown of Bethlehem, Pa., for more than 40 years. She also served as an Arts-in-Education consultant in schools around the country. Her specialty was teaching core curriculum through the use of dance and the arts. Pearson moved to Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley in the early 1970's when her first husband, John Haskew Pearson, became the head of the drama department at Lehigh University. In 1976, Pearson's husband died suddenly, leaving her to raise three small children on her own. The following year, Pearson and several of her late husband's students formed The People's Theater Company in Bethlehem. It performed family oriented shows at street festivals, parks, schools and other venues. She later founded a dance school with more than 100 students, served as an adjunct professor teaching Movement in Early Childhood Education at local colleges, and completed numerous residencies in public schools with programs designed to integrate movement into the teaching of math, science and language arts. Born Oct. 29, 1946, in Montreal, Canada, Pearson was a daughter of American parents. She was raised in Fort Wayne. Her father, Samuel A. Rea was the President of the Rea Magnet & Wire Company. Her mother, Eleanor Appel, was a visual artist and art teacher. Growing up, Pearson developed what would become lifelong passions, swimming and sailing at her parents' summer cottage in Leland, Mich., vacationing with her large extended family - and especially dancing. Her sister Polly Rea remembers attending a production of the ballet the Nutcracker when they were children. She says Pearson exclaimed, "I want to do that!" Pearson graduated from South Side High School in 1968. She then attended Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., and spent her junior year at the Sorbonne University in Paris. Later, she obtained a Masters of Liberal Arts at Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Conn. In 2006, Pearson married Willems. Together they began an exciting new life together that included entertaining friends, visiting family, and beloved annual trips to Paris. Their love for one another and enthusiasm for the life they shared was obvious to all who knew them. Willems cared for Pearson throughout her illness, until the end of her life, with steadfast devotion. In addition to Willems, Pearson is survived by her mother, Eleanor Golden; sister, Polly Rea; half-brothers, Scott and James Rea; stepsiblings, Catherine Golden, Charles Golden, Ann McCann, Beth Raymond, and Bob and Chip Zimmerman; sister-in-law, Wendy Thompson; three adult children, Vincent, Arthur and Mary Pearson; daughters-in-law, Sara Beszterczey and Jane Pearson; four grandchildren, Haskew, Samuel, John and Evan Pearson; and niece, Sarah Rea. She was also preceded by her father, Samuel A. Rea; and brother, Samuel A. Rea Jr. Friends and relatives will remember Pearson as an extremely energetic and creative force, who was passionate about music, art, history and above all friends and family. She was not a solo performer. She wanted everyone to join the dance. Viewing is Sunday, July 15, 2018, at Herron Funeral Home, Bethelehem, Pa. A memorial service of her life will be held in the Autumn of 2018 at a time to be announced.
Funeral Home
John F. Herron Funeral Home
458 Center Street
Bethlehem, PA 18018 6021
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Published in Fort Wayne Newspapers on July 13, 2018