Rita Gwen Bowles Pearson left this earth peacefully on February 28, 2010.
Born in Blountstown, Florida, on February 5, 1930, to C.B. (Coach) and Velma Trammell Bowles, Rita moved to Clay County as a small child when her father took a teaching position there. She shared fond memories of growing up in Green Cove Springs as well as time spent with grandparents in Blountstown or near Silver Street, South Carolina, during alternating summers.
Growing up, Rita was active in all aspects of small-town life and excelled in everything she did. She graduated as Valedictorian from Clay High in 1947 and headed to Florida State University where she would complete a double major in English and Education along with a double minor in Spanish and History. Along the way, she played intramural sports and served as president of Alpha Omicron Pi sorority.
After graduating in 1951, she returned home where her father served as Superintendent of Schools for Clay County. She took a teaching position in St. Johns County to avoid any conflict working under him might present and resided and worked there for the rest of her life.
Rita met her future husband while he was stationed at Naval Base Green Cove Springs, Florida. In 1953, she and Robert Bruce Pearson married. They were married for over 46 years at the time of his passing in 2000.
Rita taught in the St. Johns County public schools for 18 years, mostly teaching seventh-grade English. For the next 25 years, she taught secondary English, Spanish and History at the Florida State School for the Blind.
She retired with more than 43 years of teaching experience. Though she received many accolades for her skills along the way, the most meaningful reward was seeing her former students succeed. She was proud to have taught over 3,000 students in her career and loved to hear about what they were doing as adults.
In retirement, she frequently ran into former students and never failed to remember someone she had taught. Officially retired in 1995, she continued to teach her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and anyone else in her path throughout the remaining years of her life.
Rita believed that God had a plan for her and was confident that she would be all right following it regardless of where it led. She was the caretaker of her family and friends and was always looking for ways to do something to make someone’s life a little easier. Her life journey led her through an almost 19-year battle with breast cancer during which she was a remarkable role model for all who knew her. She was ever-present at birthday parties, band competitions, ballet or piano recitals, karate demonstrations, choir performances, football games and other activities involving her grandchildren or great-grandchildren, frequently scheduling her treatment or doctors’ appointments around the activities to avoid missing them.
Known for an unbelievable memory and vast knowledge store, Rita’s interests and talents were varied and included being a gifted pianist, tireless gardener, perennial student of Florida history and absolute expert bargain-shopper. She enjoyed being a member of the Scimitars, the retired teachers’ group and the retired post office breakfast crew and was a frequent line-dancer at the Council on Aging. She will be greatly missed.
In addition to her parents and husband, Rita was predeceased by her brother, Claude Broadus Bowles, Jr., and her daughter, Gwen Diane Pearson. She leaves behind to cherish her memory her daughter Pamela Pearson Mann (William); son-in-law Charles Keith Sellner; brothers John William Bowles (Linda) of Orange Park; Donovan Trammell Bowles (Kristine) of Green Cove Springs; granddaughters Summer Leigh Kleinfelder (Patrick) and Reed Ellis Mann; grandson William Pearson Mann; great-granddaughter, Alexis Autumn Butler; great-grandsons, Andrew Aidan Butler and Adam Pearson Kleinfelder, cousins, nieces, nephews, former students and friends.
A celebration of Rita’s life was held Wednesday, March 3, at Craig Funeral Home Chapel in St. Augustine. Private burial will take place at Atkins Cemetery, Blountstown, on Friday, March 5. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Susan G. Komen for the Cure North Florida Affiliate, 4446 Hendricks Avenue #372, Jacksonville, FL 32207.