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October 28, 2017 12:28 am

Tributes Flow For Matt Pearce

Sunday, January 31, 2016 @ 4:11 AM


Matt Pearce memorial service was held Saturday at Westwood Mennonite Church.  Photos 250News

Matt Pearce memorial service was held Saturday at Westwood Mennonite Church. Photos 250News

Prince George, B.C. – A man who, in all respects, got a great deal of joy out of life and gave immeasurably to those he met was remembered with reverence at a memorial service Saturday afternoon.

Following an acoustic rendition of the Bruce Springsteen song “My Hometown”, family, friends, athletes, students, teachers and many more representing a cross-section of the Prince George community paid their respects and tributes to Matt Pearce at Westwood Mennonite Church.  Matt passed away suddenly on Saturday, January 23rd, 2016 at the age of 48.

The hometown kid who grew up to become a university and professional football star has had tales of his athletic feats related numerous times in the media, and this service pointed out that Matt Pearce was so much more than someone who loved competing in the many sports he played.  Speaker after speaker referred to the pure joy he received first and foremost from his family, and from enjoying the many other aspects of his life.

Faye Wightman, an aunt of Matt’s wife Sherrie, related that “today is not an occasion any of us really had anticipated, nor, if we were to be honest with each other, really looked forward to attending.  Death is not a time of joy, especially when it’s the death of someone who is in the prime of his life, had so many reasons to be enjoying life, had a loving family who adored him, a community around him that appreciated everything that he did for the community and especially for the students and young people.”

“So we could acknowledge that today could be a time of sorrow, but Matt’s family wants this to be a time of celebration of his life.”

Kent Jomha, who met Matt 40 years ago in Grade 4 at Foothills Elementary, noted in his eulogy that “the first day I met Matt he was quite a sight, probably a full head taller than any other boy in the class, and that’s discounting the afro.”    “We became very fast friends.  I’m not too sure what attracted each other but the friendship just grew, almost from the time we met each other.”

Jomha noted that he was the person who could take most of the credit for Matt’s football career.  “I started playing football as a ten year-old.  By the time he was 12 Matt was saying to himself, Kent is playing football and he’s kind of doing ok.  It’s got to be pretty easy, I think I can probably do this.”

For the uninitiated he described how in football you have hip pads and a tail guard which protects your tailbone if you get knocked on your butt.  “Matt wasn’t quite sure what the tail guard was for.  He was a pretty smart guy, and, he was a guy and he saw the shape of it and thought well, what areas are the most crucial that I want to protect?”  Needless to say Matt put the tail guard in the front of his pants and the team had to huddle around him while he dropped his drawers and got things squared away.  Jomha says “now the part of the story that I never did tell Matt is that as a ten year-old, at my first practice, I did exactly the same.”

Matt Pearce wore the #32 jersey while playing with the Grey Cup Champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Matt Pearce wore the #32 jersey while playing with the Grey Cup Champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Jomha says throughout his life Matt Pearce “was a great guy, with a great sense of humor.”  “He put effort into all he did to get better.  He was never satisfied.”

He says at the very top of Matt’s priority list was Sherrie.  “He loved how kind she was and how intelligent she was.”  The two married in April, 1989 before Matt’s first training camp with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.  He was in Winnipeg, she in Vancouver and when they saw each for the first time in four months at the Winnipeg airport “Matt was there to greet her with a dozen red roses, dressed head to toe in a gorilla costume.  I think it’s very possible to say Matt’s sense of humor has been under-reported.”

Jomha told the more than five hundred people gathered that Matt’s three favorite subjects were his wife Sherrie and their two children, daughter Tenley and son Colburn.  “He was never happier than when he was with his family.”

Family friends Owen and Marion Corcoran related how close Matt and his brother Paul and sister Kirsten were to them as children.  In the words of Owen Corcoran, “there is another gap at our family table, but we will not scrunch up and fill his place.  Maintaining the gap he leaves is recognition of his time with us and the memories that will always keep him present.  There are some men that should have mountains to bear their names.  Matt was such a man.”

Tina Cousins and Matt Pearce fought many battles on behalf of teachers and students on the executive of the Prince George District Teachers Association.  “When we first started working together Matt sat me down and said, ok Cousins, I’m only going to be president for two years and I suggest that you do not stay in this job for a long time.  We are young people, we have a lot to give to our profession.  I took his advice and as always, good advice.”

“Teaching was his passion, he enjoyed students and sharing his knowledge.  He was a reader, non-fiction books being his passion, and he enjoyed learning on many levels.”  She also said “one friend described, when Matt was up at the microphone, he could always make you feel that everything was going to be ok.  The power in a room with Matt in it could be felt.  He was a credible, strong and passionate voice for all of us.”  “Filling Matt’s shoes will take all of us.”

Family friend and fellow teacher Al Erricson had been called upon to reflect on Matt’s role in community sports but he noted that many of those stories had been told before.  He stepped up to the podium wearing a bright pink shirt and said “today I wear this shirt, I got up this morning and it just stood out to me and I did it in honour of Matt’s character.  I just wanted to stand out.  He did.”

“Matt was never afraid to stand out.  For staff pictures he would wear afro wigs or Hawaiian shirts.  He could passionately speak to thousands and give us direction and hope.  He stood out in so many moments in life.”

He also said Pearce never left any hard feelings or grudges in any aspect of his life.  “He moved forward with acceptance for the feelings of others and would continue to do what he does to make things better.”

“Forgive me for not dealing more with the sports stuff but, how does a man slip into so many lives and become a genuine friend, a formidable opponent, a rock solid teammate, a colleague, a keeper of rules, a trusted leader, respected son, a caring brother, devoted father, a loving husband.  I might venture to say by making all you do, positive, passionate and sincere.  Matt did this.”

“One encounter, one smile, one practical joke, one practice, one race, one game, one meeting, one rally, one pot of tea while marking with the love of his life, one day at a time.  That’s the choice he made: to love, live and laugh always.  I believe this is why so many of us love Matt.”

A close friend who worked with Matt at Duchess Park, Andrew Leamy, said “I have to tell you I’ve seen Matt everywhere this week and I don’t mean that as a purely sort of mystical kind of wish fulfillment.  There’s just so many bald men in Prince George.  Matt is everywhere this week.”

He mentioned how Matt told a story about walking through a Grade 8 gym class that wasn’t his and joined a game of dodge ball, “terrifying all these small students who wanted to know who the scary man was who was throwing balls at them so hard.  But Matt understood that he would see those kids again, somewhere in his teaching career and they would respect him, or something like respect.”

Leamy says “you can’t replace a guy like that, they are one of a kind.” 

He also related how “Matt spoke of guys in Winnipeg who were great players but not necessarily good men, and guys who stayed too long, and what he learned from that.”

He’d light up when he’d tell us that he and some of the other Bombers were going to these little northern communities to play charity games.  He lived for that stuff and brought that back home with him.”

“That’s the man that I will remember, he was engaged, animated, excited about life.”

Leamy related how he ran into some good fortune this past week when he was sent Matt’s Bi-11 course outline that was sitting on his desk at College Heights.
“It ends with this paragraph, and I want you to think about the man who wrote this:

“I hope that every student finishes the course with a greater understanding of the diversity of life and the inter-connectedness of all living things, including ourselves.  No student should leave Biology 11 without a new perspective on the importance of the variety of life and our place in nature.”


Matt and Sherrie Pearce had a plan to set up a scholarship when they retired from teaching that would benefit a Prince George graduating student.  Sherrie and her two children are honoring Matt’s wishes by establishing the Matt Pearce Memorial Fund which will be managed by the Vancouver Foundation but used to support a graduating student from one of the Prince George secondary schools. 

Those wishing to make a donation can go to:



A beautiful service for an incredible individual!

I worked with Matt on several committees with the PGDTA and he was great! He would insure that the issues were covered and we could move forward.
He will be missed.
Thank you Matt for all your great work!

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