Adell Pearson, 66, worked with abused and neglected children

September 10, 2005|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Adell Pearson, who spent more than four decades at St. Vincent's Center helping abused and neglected children rebuild their shattered lives, died of cancer Sunday at her West Baltimore home. She was 66.

A child-life specialist with limited formal education, Mrs. Pearson earned the admiration of her peers - and the love of her charges - with her knack for winning the trust of mistreated youngsters, whether through gardening or her down-to-earth sayings.

"I worked closely with her for 12 years, and I was pretty much in awe of her ability to help abused children heal," said David E. Brainerd, formerly of St. Vincent's and now administrator of the children's division of the Baltimore County Department of Social Services.

"She was a woman who was educated in the South during the era of segregation and didn't have a lot of formal education. But it was her sense of values, presence, respect and feel for parenting and what a kid needed that made her so successful. It was just so uncanny," Mr. Brainerd said.

He added: "She worked with difficult children who had been through a lot and were traumatized. No one could be better at parenting than Miss Adell, and if God made a model of what a good parent is, it would be Adell Pearson."

Kevin M. Keegan, executive director of New Pathways Inc., a foster care program, met Mrs. Pearson when he worked at St. Vincent's in Timonium.

"This was a lady who perfected the balance between gentleness and toughness that we all strive for when working with kids. She was remarkably modest, yet probably taught many of us more than any textbook ever could have. I have two degrees and learned more from her," Mr. Keegan said.

Born Adell Alston in Georgetown, S.C., and raised in Plantersville, S.C., she moved to Baltimore in 1957. She was 18 when she began her career at St. Vincent's.

"She had a great love of children and was a very patient, kind and open person. She was not judgmental and was always willing to lend an ear to their problems," said a niece, Dorothea A. Pearson of Baltimore.

"She was just a natural and empathized with the kids and what they were going through. She loved them unconditionally and understood that children had different ways of expressing their emotions," said Darlene Damon-Blagmon, a supervisor at St. Vincent's.

Mrs. Pearson often used gardening to connect with residents of the center. She had them plant seeds and then tend the flower and vegetable garden, and at harvest time, she cooked meals with the vegetables they had grown.

"She taught many lessons, but always in a gentle way. Each child would soon know, after meeting Miss Adell, that they were loved by her," said Cyndi Mitchell-Summers, director of volunteers at St. Vincent's and Chara House. "They would know that she believed in them and their ability to grow and make positive changes in their lives. She offered hope to these children and taught them to hope and dream."

"Miss Adell was the most wonderful woman I have met in my entire life. She taught me how to love myself," said Ashley Bangert, a former resident of Susanna House, which Mrs. Pearson supervised.

Around St. Vincent's, Mrs. Pearson was known for her wisdom-filled "Adell-isms" which came from her country background and years of working at St. Vincent's. Many former residents - now adults - enjoyed calling her and repeating their favorite sayings.

When dealing with a difficult or stressful situation, Mrs. Pearson would be heard to say, "Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you." Or: "Remember, you're not the only pebble on the beach."

If a child raised his fist in anger or threatened to assault her, Mrs. Pearson would say in a calming voice, "I am not hardly afraid of you, and you have no reason to be afraid of me. I'm here to help you."

When a child would have a difficult emotional moment, she offered wise counsel: "Remember, you're a child, and you have the right to be a child."

Staffers at St. Vincent's said her personal favorite was: "I said it. I meant it. And I'm here to represent it."

Mrs. Pearson, who retired this spring because of failing health, earned many awards during her career, including Maryland Child Care Worker of the year in 1987 and National Child Care Worker through the Child Welfare League of America.

For years, Mrs. Pearson lived on Arunah Avenue in West Baltimore, where she opened her home to the needy and troubled.

"She reminded me of Bea Gaddy and was unable to say no to anyone. People from all over the neighborhood came to her," Mrs. Damon-Blagmon said.

Mrs. Pearson's marriage to Clarence Pearson ended in divorce.

"In the narrow biological sense, she had no children," Mr. Brainerd said. "But in the true sense, she raised thousands of kids who desperately needed her."

A wake will be held at 10:30 a.m. today with services at 11:30 a.m. at Community Baptist Church of Cherry Hill, 827 Cherry Hill Road.

Surviving are a sister, Lillie Bell Singleton of Plantersville; and many nieces and nephews.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.