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The Pine Bluff Girl With A Beautiful Smile
Mrs. Mary Spousta Pearson was born nearly a century ago with an infectious smile that carried her through a life spanning more than 99 years. She passed away this past Monday,... Read More
The Pine Bluff Girl With A Beautiful Smile
Mrs. Mary Spousta Pearson was born nearly a century ago with an infectious smile that carried her through a life spanning more than 99 years. She passed away this past Monday, March 7, in Pine Bluff, still smiling.
Mary was the devoted wife of the late Ben Pearson, archery legend and the “Father of Modern Archery,” who passed away in 1971.
Mary was born on September 28, 1922, in Sulphur Springs. She was the third of four daughters of hard-working Polish immigrants, her beloved parents, the late Charles and Frances Spousta, and she spoke Polish fluently until the very end of her life. The Spousta family developed a 40-acre plot of raw land in Sulphur Springs into a working family farm and sold produce both door-to-door and at the Pine Bluff farmers’ market. Their produce coupled with Mary’s beautiful smile became a big hit within the community. During this time, Mary attended school in Sulphur Springs and then Watson Chapel before beginning work full-time on the family farm.
At the age of 15, before she had a driver’s license, the always strong-minded and determined Mary decided to help upgrade her family’s farm operation by purchasing a used pickup truck to replace their mule and wagon. Henry Trotter of Trotter Ford knew Mary, who had peddled garden produce to the Trotter residence as a young girl, well enough to trust her and sold her a pickup truck on good faith. Mary received a demonstration on how to use a stick shift and off she drove back to her family’s farm with a new truck.
At one point as a young woman, Mary serendipitously also worked as a bow-string machine operator for Ben Pearson Inc., though she did not meet Ben until later. She was a hard worker and quickly filled her quotas.
During the next phase of her life, Mary married, gave birth to her first child, Rena, and then divorced. Her smile soon caught the attention of a new suitor when, as a friendly checker for Kroger on Main Street in Pine Bluff in the early 1950s, she met Ben Pearson, himself recently divorced. They married in May of 1952, remaining together until his death in 1971. They had two children, Ben Jr. and Mary, during the 1950s, and Mary remained a loving, caring mother for all three of her children, encouraging and supporting them in every instance.
These excerpts from an August 1951 Retail Clerk Advocate magazine article encapsulate Mary’s smiling personality:
The line may be long. It may stay long. It may come from all directions. The pressure may be tremendous. The rush may be terrific. But the smile of Mary, cashier-checker at the Kroger store in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, never leaves. Some people go haywire under pressure, but Mary smiles through it all. Some may grow tense, but Mary is as relaxed as her smile. Because of her radiant smile, Mary was the logical choice for chairman of the women’s division of Pine Bluff’s “Smile Week.” The event was a big success too.
Mary has her own philosophy about her charming smile. “There is always a way out of your troubles,” she believes. With such confidence, it is no trouble to smile. Also, she says, “I love people.”
It was at her Kroger checker station (pictured in the Photos & Videos section above) where Mary met and fell in love with Ben. Together, Mary and Ben forged a fascinating and enterprising life together. Ben’s numerous business-associated travels often carried Mary with him across the United States, Mexico and Canada for various events associated with Ben Pearson Inc. and Pearson/Rust cotton pickers. One of their most memorable travel adventures was a trip to Mexico in February 1963, with Ben Pearson Inc. being one of the companies invited by the U.S. Department of Commerce to represent the United States at the Latin American Trade Fair in Mexico City. Each day for several weeks, Mary participated with Ben in his archery demonstrations, supporting her husband while sporting her signature smile.
During the 1960s, Ben and Mary became early pioneers in the redevelopment of their hometown of Pine Bluff. They renovated several properties, transforming the old Pine Bluff library into a law office building and restoring several historic homes—including five houses on the National Register of Historic Places. They moved into one of these historic residences, located at 716 West Barraque Street, which Mary would go on to open for public tours to help promote Pine Bluff. Ben and Mary also began developing a property in Northcentral Arkansas into a horse and cattle ranch. After Ben passed away in 1971, Mary continued living in her historic home on West Barraque Street and caring for her family.
Mary attended St. Joseph Catholic Church in Pine Bluff and participated in many community events. One she looked forward to the most was the annual Ben Pearson Memorial Tournament hosted by Pine Bluff Bowhunters. She attended every single year until just recently when her health prevented her from doing so.
Oh, what a wonderful world to have had smiling Mary in it.
In addition to her husband, Ben Pearson, and parents, Charles and Frances Spousta, Mary is preceded in death by her three sisters: Helen Podgornick, Frances Krzysztyniak and Caroline Joyner.
Mary is survived by her three children: Rena Harrison of Pine Bluff, Ben Pearson Jr. (Paulette) of Prim, Arkansas, and Mary Pearson of Asheville, North Carolina.
She is also survived by eleven grandchildren: Jesse Clark Harrison III, Sean Gavin Harrison, Andrea Janine Harrison (Roger), Eric Damon Harrison, Paulette Diana Pearson (Rich), Benjamin Alexander Pearson III, Diana Alexandra Pearson (Kevin), Jeremiah Scott Duffer (Amy), Joshua Garrett Duffer (Leah), Mary Catherine Pinkney Duffer (Cory) and Joseph Zarrilli Duffer (Jennifer).
Survivors also include six great-grandchildren: Rowan Alexander Duffer, Isla Rose Duffer, Brett David Harrison, Hailey Danielle Harrison, Abigael Katherine Milton and Bella Rose Harrison.
The vigil service will be held at 5:30pm on Friday, March 11, in the Chapel of Ralph Robinson & Son in Pine Bluff with Deacon Noel F. “Bud” Bryant officiating. Visitation will follow the Vigil service from 6:00-7:00 p.m. at Robinson’s. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:30am on Saturday, March 12, at St. Joseph Catholic Church with Father Joseph Marconi officiating followed by burial at Graceland Cemetery. The pallbearers will be Mary’s grandsons.
Memorials may be made to St. Joseph Catholic Church (PO Box 7434, Pine Bluff, AR 71611).
Online register: www.RalphRobinsonandSon.com
We encourage you to share your most beloved memories of Mary here, so that the family and other loved ones can always see it. You can upload cherished photographs, or share your favorite stories, and can even comment on those shared by others.
PLEASE NOTE: The reproduction of any copyrighted images is forbidden without express written permission from the copyright holder. We reserve the right to delete, without warning or notice, any image in violation of any copyright laws.
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