Pearson dedicated to hospital, Meaford 0
In the end, former Meaford Mayor Bill Pearson died in the place he fought so hard to save some 15 years ago while head of council.
It was February 1997. Mike Harris, then-premier of Ontario, was looking for ways to cut costs. A controversial hospital restructuring report recommended extensive cuts at Meaford General Hospital.
The plan was met with fierce opposition. One thousand people braved frigid temperatures to protest the conversion of the hospital into a primary health care facility. About 2,000 people crammed the town's community centre to voice their outrage. One woman vowed to go on a hunger strike if the hospital was downgraded.
Meanwhile, Mr. Pearson, the town's mayor, was working hard in his trademark quiet, calm and conciliatory manner, to ensure the hospital remained open, remembers Bill Murdoch, who was the area's MPP at the time.
"Bill was in there all the time. He wasn't banging his fist on the table by any means. He was bound and determined that it wasn't going to happen on his watch," said Murdoch, who vowed at the time to break Tory ranks if he had to to keep the hospital open.
Bill Pearson Jr. said his father's effort to save the Meaford hospital was one of the "highlights" of his dad's two terms as mayor.
"The hospital is very important to the community," he said Tuesday.
His dad headed a group, he said, that lobbied the province to keep the hospital open.
The hospital was eventually saved after five Grey-Bruce hospitals, including the one in Meaford, amalgamated into one corporation. The merger accomplished the province's goal of saving money, as fewer administrators were needed and more service sharing was realized.
Mr. Pearson died April 17 at the age of 77 at the Meaford hospital. A funeral service and internment were held last week in Meaford.
Mr. Pearson served as mayor of Meaford from 1991 to 1997. He had been a town councillor before that.
Murdoch said Mr. Pearson was "one of the better mayors" Meaford ever had.
"He just knew how to deal with people," Murdoch said. "As a person, you couldn't beat him."
Mr. Pearson was a former Ministry of Natural Resources conservation officer.
He was a dedicated Owen Sound Attack hockey fan and had served as a volunteer firefighter and minor hockey coach.
Bill Pearson Jr. said his dad was a caring man, who would fly model airplanes with his children when they were kids and who was involved in his children's minor sports activities.
Mr. Pearson is survived by his wife Glenda and his children Sue (Dave) Richardson, Bill (Jennifer) Pearson and Laurie (Brian) Laporte, all of Meaford. He had three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.