Editor's note: In a new feature from Forum News Service, reporter Matthew Guerry will share the life stories of residents of Minnesota or the Dakotas who have died recently. Maybe you don't know them, but their stories are worth knowing. If you have a suggestion for someone to be featured, email email@example.com or call 651-321-4314.
You could tell that Ethelyn Pearson loved to write by looking at her night stand.
She almost always kept a pen and paper on it because inspiration struck in her dreams.
"Sometimes she’d wake up in the middle of the night and have an idea for a story, and then she’d write it down quick so she wouldn't forget it by morning," Linda Bokinskie said of her mother.
Pearson developed her passion for writing and literature at an early age and would pursue it for almost her entire life. By the time she died of COVID-19 at age 99 in a Clarissa, Minn., nursing home on Dec. 11, 2020, she had sold some 700 stories to nearly 60 publications, ranging from local newspapers to national magazines.
Pearson was born on March 15, 1921, to Russell and Alice Linnell in Hewitt, Minn., where she spent her childhood.
She and husband Milton R. Pearson, who she married in 1939, lived in California for a time when he worked at an aircraft plant.
Together with their three children, the couple moved back to Minnesota in 1946, settling at the farm in Wadena, Minn., Milt bought from his family. In the late 1960s, when their children were in college, the two owned and operated a roller rink in St. Cloud.
Milt preceded Ethelyn in death in 1999. In addition to Bokinskie, Ethelyn is survived by sons Larry and Arlen Pearson, as well as many grandchildren.
Read more about Ethelyn Pearson in her obituary at www.schullerfamilyfh.com.
Ethelyn Pearson started writing seriously while raising her children. Sometimes she wrote by hand, and other times with a typewriter. Many of the stories she wrote were about real people and places and happenings in the Wadena area.
"She was always talking about the next story she was going to do," Arlen Pearson said.
Her stories sometimes called for research, which Bokinskie said her mother was more than happy to conduct even later in life at libraries and museums in the area.
"She had her driver's license until she was 92. And you almost had to make an appointment to see mom, because she would be out at the library or having lunch with her friends," Bokinskie said.
Though she sold work to major publications such as the Farm Journal and Country Woman, Pearson had always endeavored to publish a book. Success came in 2001, when Pearson was 81, with the publishing of "It Really Happened Here," a book of true stories about Minnesota and the Dakotas.
She put out a follow-up book a few years later.
"My mom was one to always be out for a challenge," Bokinskie said. "She had sold a lot of magazine articles over the years, you know. But she was never going to be satisfied until she sold a book. And that’s what kept her going."
As is often the case with authors, Pearson did not publish everything she wrote. That includes an idea for a children's book that Bokinskie said would probably have been about animals. (A love of animals of all types Pearson kept many pets over the years, including a frog named Windsor.)
Another unpublished work of Pearson's was an autobiographical one she gave to her children as a Christmas gift roughly 10 years ago. The last line is revealing:
"I consider these years, the last years of my life, to be nearly perfect. I am busy doing what I want to do. Other than tiring easily, I don’t hurt anywhere. I have a caring wonderful family for which I thank God for everyday, and you will see why I am so content," she wrote.