Valley Lives - Geoffrey Pearson

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the March 26, 2008 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Chelsea cottager, former ambassador to Moscow, dies at 80

by Rachel Dares

Geoffrey Pearson, son of former prime minister Lester B. Pearson and a retired Canadian diplomat who owned a summer home in Chelsea, died in his sleep March 18 at the age of 80.

"It has been a shock to learn of the passing of Geoffrey Pearson. He was involved in a number of internationally-oriented organizations, where he was admired for his depth of knowledge and commitment," said Norma Walmsley, a Wakefield resident who worked with Geoffrey Pearson at the United Nations Association of Canada, which he headed from 1999 to 2003.

She also worked with him at the Group of 78, an organization formed 27 years ago to advise prime minister Pierre Trudeau on progressive Canadian foreign policy.

"His wry sense of humour will be missed by his associates in these groups, as well as by fellow members at our Larrimac golf course," said Walmsley.

Valley Lives
A photo that ran in the Low Down Aug. 7, 1980 of Geoffrey Pearson at age 53 enjoying a summer's day at his COllage at Burnett in Chelsea. At the time, he was was studying Russian in preparation for his new post as Canadian ambassador to the Soviet Union. Pearson died March 18. 2008 in his Ottawa home, at age 80. Art Mantell photo.

"His wry sense of humour will be missed by his associates in these groups, as well as by fellow members at our Larrimac golf course," said Walmsley.

Geoffrey Pearson was born in Toronto on Christmas Day in 1927 to Lester and Mary on Pearson. Many say Geoffrey had a tough act to follow, being born to a father who introduced universal health care, the Canada Pension Plan, student loans and the current Canadian flag, during his lengthy political career. Lester Pearson made large strides in the United Nations, having won the Nobel Peace Prize for defusing the Suez Crisis through the UN in 1957.

But it seems Geoffrey took after his father's example and made his own mark on the international stage. Educated at the University of Toronto and Oxford University, Geoffrey continued this legacy in international affairs, becoming the first executive director of the Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security in 1985, a government-funded organization that researched arms control and other security issues, where he stayed for six years.

He held diplomatic appointments at the embassies of Mexico City and Paris as well as the High Commission in New Delhi and served as the Canadian ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1980 to 1983, a challenging period following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In 1983, Geoffrey was made a special representative on arms control for former prime minister Pierre Trudeau.

Even in his retirement, Geoffrey continued to write about and comment on Canadian foreign policy, both in the media and in his own book about his father, Seize the Day: Lester B. Pearson and Crisis Diplomacy. Geoffrey Pearson was inducted into the Order of Canada in 2000, the country's highest civilian honour, which was created in 1967 during his father's time as prime minister.

For many years, Geoffrey visited a cottage at Burnett in Chelsea that was purchased in 1952 by his father, Lester Pearson, who is now buried in Wakefield's MacLaren cemetary. Geoffrey once said he used the cottage much the way his father did, as a place to get away for awhile and rest.

Geoffrey leaves his wife. former senator Landon Pearson their five children, including Patricia Pearson, a journalist and author, Michael Pearson, a Canadian diplomat and senior official with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Hilary, Katharine and Anne, as well as his younger sister, Patricia Hannah, and 12 grandchildren.

A service will be held April 12 at St. Bartholomew's Church in Ottawa.

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