Lots of people loved Sam Pearson.
His wife, Vicki, and their nine children and 14 grandchildren. Fellow members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Kids he taught in 19 years as the shop teacher at Freeman High School.
So no wonder the hundreds of mourners who came to Pearson’s funeral Wednesday overflowed the sanctuary of the Mormon Church at 40th and Highway 27.
Pearson, 60, died Sunday of a heart attack.
His death will leave a hole in a school where the 17 teachers and nearly 290 students all know each other.
Students from Freeman High were at the service, their Scotties jackets dotting the crowd.
Lyle Dach, a 1992 Freeman graduate, remembered Pearson for being a friend as well as a teacher.
“Lots of times I would go in after school and talk with him about different kinds of woods. He’d tell me about his family and sending his kids to college … kind of personal talk like that. That’s what was special to me about him.”
Sometimes during a Christmas break, Pearson would open the shop just so Dach could finish up Christmas projects he was working on.
Not everyone at the midday funeral arrived in formal clothes.
Pete McDonald came in blue work pants and a lettered shirt, straight from his job with AL Compressed Gases. McDonald delivered supplies to the Freeman High wood shop and grew to count on Pearson’s ability to listen.
“We were just casual friends. He helped me when my mom died, and he helped me through my divorce. And he rejoiced with me when I remarried,” McDonald said.
Reflecting a bit, he added, “I guess we weren’t such casual friends. That’s why I’m here today.”
Pearson collected exotic woods from around the world and lavished his passion for detail on gifts for his children and grandchildren.
Daughter Lori Konshuk remembers a father who “loved his family, his friends and his garden.”
The master gardener led nighttime tours of his garden by lantern. His gardens - thousands of tulips were his special love - drew people to the Pearson place near Rockford.
“He was so darling. He loved to tell jokes. And he loved to talk,” Konshuk said. “A lot of people really loved him.”
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