Bruce Leonard Pearson died at St. Mary's Hospital on the Mayo Clinic Campus on July 14, 2021. He was born on April 30, 1932, in Indianapolis, Indiana where he spent most of his childhood and remained a fan of the Indy 500 races all his life.
Bruce graduated from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana with a B.A. in 1953. He served alternative service as a conscientious objector under the auspices of the American Friends Service Committee in Japan, where he taught English and spent summers working on field projects and in orphanages. Upon returning to the states, he taught in Shortridge High School in Indianapolis, pursuing a degree in Linguistics at Indiana University during the summers. He was awarded an M.A. in 1963. He then accepted a position at Earlham College as an administrator and faculty member. The college was developing the Conner Prairie Pioneer Settlement, a living history museum built around the homestead of William Conner, one of the state's pioneer settlers. Bruce's focus on the settler was quickly eclipsed by his interest in the Delaware Indians, with whom Conner had grown up. With his study in languages and the seeds of culture embedded within grammar structures and vocabulary, Bruce decided to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of California at Berkeley. While there he began research on the Delaware language. On completing his degree in 1972, he accepted a faculty position at the University of South Carolina to teach linguistics and other anthropology courses, retiring in 1997 as professor emeritus. He worked throughout his academic career on Delaware and Shawnee, both members of the Algonquian language family.
In 1994 while speaking at a conference on the Historic Tribes of Tuscarawas County, Ohio, Bruce met Jim Bland, then the second chief of the Wyandotte Nation, who asked him to help the tribe to preserve their own language, a member of the Iroquois language family.
Throughout his life, Bruce was a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), which was evident by the Friends' testimonies of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, and equality in his interactions with the rest of the world. He worked tirelessly against the death penalty and was a volunteer teacher for South Carolina's death row inmates. He protested, spoke and wrote letters and articles, and persistently lobbied for a just legal system. He loved baseball and umpired for many years for the Dixie Youth Baseball League. Upon retirement and moving to Bloomington, Indiana, Bruce was a volunteer teacher in the local jail. He also acted in community theater, wrote plays for First Day School, and produced an opera about death row, for which he wrote the libretto. He attended every opera and musical production at Indiana University.
Bruce is survived by his wife of 32 years, Julia; children: Sarah Columbus, Thomas (Tracey) Pearson, Cresta (Colleen Coulter) Cates, and Kate (Nicholas) Remmes; and grandchildren: Paul, Alison, and Amy Columbus; Atlee (Miranda) and Tanner Pearson; Solomon and Lyle Cates, and Liam and Keegan Gabauer; Genevieve and Duncan Remmes; his sister, Susan (Kenneth) Steeves; and the Knox brothers- and sisters-in-law as well as many nieces and nephews. A special companion and gentle joy for the past seven years has been his beagle, Suki.
He was preceded in death by his parents Leonard and Hildred Pearson; his sisters Nancy Drew, Betsy Caulfield, and his brothers-in-law Richard Caulfield and Walter Knox; nephew David Caulfield; and son-in-law Joseph Columbus.
A memorial and celebration of Bruce's life will be held at a later time. Till then, toast his presence in the world with a glass of local wine, sushi, and a game of miniature golf or Trivial Pursuit. In lieu of flowers, please send memorial donations to the American Friends Service Committee or Earlham College.
There are no events scheduled.