In Memory of Mark Pearson

Brian Gongol

We lost a good friend in Mark Pearson, quite suddenly and without any warning. It's a really awful loss, not only for his family and friends, but for the broader community that is Iowa.

A lot of people have remarked on Mark's magnetic personality. And magnetic it was. In a state where we can often joke that the "six degrees of separation" that apply everywhere else in the world can usually be condensed down to two degrees instead, Mark Pearson was one of the people who made that closeness possible. If you knew Mark, you were connected to half of the state.

People floated his name as a possible candidate for governor in the 2010 race. I talked with him about it -- and I still have the July 2008 email from "mpearson57" to prove it. Whether he had ever entertained running for so much as dog catcher, I have no idea. But he was the kind of person whom I would have instantly entrusted with the highest office in the state -- without a moment's hesitation or a shred of reservation. And I told him so, in person, when I saw him at the Iowa State Fair that year. With characteristic good cheer, he shrugged off the notion, saying how much he already enjoyed everything he had already, but that he was of course flattered by the idea.

It is hard not to be jealous of how effortless Mark made things look. The farmer in him spent plenty of time outdoors in the heat, but metaphorically, I never saw him sweat. Yet that probably belied a great deal of effort we never saw. Others have already memorialized him as a raconteur, which only begins to hint at it -- but the truth is, I suspect, that Mark worked far harder at building his endless repertoire of stories and anecdotes, speeches and editorial comments, jokes and musings than anybody ever saw. He most certainly was tireless, holding down careers as a broker, farmer, radio host, television host, and public speaker, while also giving of his time as a volunteer and of course as a father and husband.

It's not often that we lose truly outsized personalities, and not often that we lose treasured state resources. In the passing of Mark Pearson, we mourn both.