By David Schleper
Bror Folke Persson (Pearson) was born on a farm in Southern Sweden on July 30, 1906. Bror Folke, meaning “brother of the people,” was a particularly apt name for a man who devoted his life to his family, parents, and communities. He was kind, modest, and had a good sense of humor.
Dr. Pearson immigrated to American in 1919, and became a doctor for 42 years in Shakopee, starting in 1934. Dr. Pearson used to come directly to the house any time of the day or night, whenever they called him. He delivered more than 2,500 babies in Shakopee.
In 1939, Dr. Pearson, a local priest, and the editor of the local paper paid a visit to the convent of Franciscan nursing nuns, and asked them to take over the decrepit county poor house and run it as a hospital and a home for the elderly.
By 1952, the little hospital was no longer big enough, and Dr. Pearson led the effort to build a new hospital with 120 beds, an emergency room, and a full services laboratory.
Dr. Pearson married Elizabeth Stephens in 1935, and after 40 years, Beth died in 1976. They had three daughters and a son. Pearson retired from his Shakopee practice in 1976, the same year his first wife, Beth, passed away.
Dr. Pearson received the 18th annual Franciscan International Award. The honor goes to someone whose humanitarian efforts and singular devotion to others live up to the ideals of Saint Francis. Other recipients have included Dr. Billy Graham, Dr. Charles Mayo of the Mayo Clinic, and Harry Reasoner, nationally known ABC Television news anchorman. In 1976, it went to a little known cotter from a small Minnesota town.
In 1980, he wed Dr. Dora Zaeske, and they were together for 22 years, traveling the world and working as humanitarians. Dr. Pearson worked as a physician in locations in South America, the West Indies, and Taiwan, and a Navajo Reservation in Ganado, Arizona. He also led an effort to sponsor a leprosarium in Zambia, Africa.
In 1970, a new elementary school in Shakopee, B.F. Pearson Elementary School, was named after him.
After a brief illness, he passed away on August 24, 2004 at Sunrise of Mercer Island, Washington, at age 98.