Robert “Bob” Pierson
Robert Pierson was born March 18, 1931 in New York City, NY during the Great Depression. Bob moved to North Carolina in 1941. Due to the war, he held several jobs as a pre-teenager, including delivering telegrams to inform families that their servicemen were wounded or killed in action. One day, he had to deliver a telegram to his mother informing her that her father had died.
In 1945, Bob and his family moved to Miami, FL. Eight months after arriving in Florida, Bob’s father was admitted to the hospital in serious condition. After spending a couple of days with her husband, Bob’s mother arrived home and told Bob to take the bus to the hospital, as his father was asking for him. At age 14 and all alone, Bob watched his father pass away shortly after his arrival at the hospital. Bob then had to take a bus home to tell his mother and sisters that his father had died. In looking back, Bob felt God was preparing him for dealing with the passing of additional loved ones throughout his lifetime with this tragic experience.
Following his father’s death, Bob, his mother and sisters moved to Hoosick Falls, NY to be near family. Soon after the Korean War started, Bob joined the Army shortly after his 17th birthday. Most of his time in the military was spent on Governor’s Island, NY.
Bob married Patricia DeGraff in 1951. They had four children, re-located to California and following many challenges, they ultimately divorced. The family was split, with Bob raising Ed and Bob in California, while Pat moved to Michigan and raised Steve and Kathy (Kate).
As a young single man, Bob raised his sons with love and discipline. Into their adulthood, both Ed and Bob battled serious health issues. Bob dedicated himself to be the caregiver for both of his sons throughout their illnesses, until they passed away. Losing both the sons he raised took an enormous toll on him. Through it all he leaned on God and his faith grew stronger.
Toward the end of Bob’s enlistment in the Army, he received training in Data Processing. Following his discharge, Bob began a long career, working for various companies including the Los Angeles Times, Bell & Howell, and Unitek Corp., which later became Bristol Meyers and finally 3M Corp. After 21 years with 3M, he retired from his final position as Manager of Information Systems.
For a man with a quiet demeanor and as a self-described loner, Bob managed to hobnob with many well-known people throughout his life. As a child in New York, he lived across the street from the Eberle family. One son, Roy, became a vocalist with the Glen Miller Band, while another son, Bob, became a vocalist with the Jimmy Dorsey Band. While living in Miami, Bob would go to a local park where he met and shagged footballs for Johnny Lujack, a Naval Ensign, who would later become an All-American, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for Notre Dame, who also played professionally for the Chicago Bears.
In addition to performing clerical duties in the Army, Bob was given only four hours to learn to drive and was assigned to drive the Company Commander. One time, Bob had to pick up Vic Damone, who was performing at various Army bases. Along with another G.I., Bob was selected to go to Rosemary Clooney’s apartment in NYC for some publicity photos for the Army (as she sang on an Army sponsored radio program). Bob even appeared on the Kate Smith TV show with a handful of other servicemen. Also while in the Army, Bob was asked to pose for an AT&T print ad titled “Home on a 3 Minute Pass,” which was printed in all the major magazines in 1951.
In 1960, while at a comedy show at the old El Rancho Vegas Hotel in Las Vegas, Bob and his companion were seated at a table for six, where four others joined them. The party of four included Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Debbie Reynolds, and Mike Todd, Jr. In Bob’s quiet fashion, he enjoyed sharing these stories of his interactions with various famous people throughout his life.
Bob is survived by his sister, Carolyn (Cornelius) O’Keefe of Panama City Beach, FL; two children, Stephen (Merry) Pierson of Jacksonville, N.C. and Katharine (David) Gundersen of Whitehall, MI; grandchildren, Steve (Sara) Pierson of Sneads Ferry, N.C., Brett (April) Pierson, stationed in Yokosuka, Japan with the U.S. Navy, Chris (Nikki) Gundersen of Ada, MI, Emily (Matt) Brzezinski of Hudsonville, MI, and Anna (Chris) Farr of Traverse City, MI; great-grandchildren, Cache, Bailey, Jersey, Davis, Gavin, Bennett, Sawyer, Jack, Sofia, and Bob’s much anticipated tenth great-grandchild due March 23; numerous nieces and nephews and very dear friend, Pilar Anthony.
Robert was preceded in death by his parents, Edward and Rose Pierson; sister, Mary (Pierson) Dougherty; sons, Robert and Edward Pierson, and ex-wife, Patricia Walters.
Bob had a very strong faith and prayed devotedly every day. He was a dedicated supporter of The Crystal Cathedral for 25+ years, as he watched The Hour of Power each Sunday.
Bob treasured his family and the Lord more than anything. He loved to share stories and photos of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He never failed to remember each of his family members on their birthdays and at Christmas, and he had a gift for picking out the very best greeting cards. Bob was a minimalist, who needed or wanted very little for himself. He was a very giving and generous man, not only with his family and friends, but through the countless agencies and organizations he supported financially each month.
After enduring many months of battling cancer, Bob passed away on March 11, 2018, one week shy of his 87th birthday. A memorial service will be held in Whitehall, Michigan this summer and per Bob’s wishes, his ashes will be scattered in Lake Michigan.
A special thank you to Bob’s sister and her husband, Carol and Neal, for their loving care of Bob these past several months, as well as his niece, Shelly Weiss, her fiancé, Tom Nudo, and Bob’s great-niece, Lauren for helping with Bob’s care any time they were needed. Bob loved his Panama City family so very much. The family would also like to thank the staff of Covenant Hospice Incorporated for providing wonderful care in his final days.