FARGO — A Maple View Memory Care patient who died after police said he was assaulted by a caregiver at the Fargo facility was a teacher, coach and radioman who owned a station in Grafton and launched another in Devils Lake.
Gary Curtis Pearson died Thursday, Aug. 19, at age 78 from complications due to a broken hip, according to Cass County prosecutors. That injury, according to police, happened when Rachel Wede Cooper, of Fargo, pushed Pearson to the ground on Aug. 3.
Cooper, 59, was arrested Wednesday, Aug. 18, and appeared Friday in Cass County District Court on felony charges of manslaughter and endangering an eligible adult. She was released from custody Friday on a $500 cash bond.
According to his obituary, Pearson grew up on a farm in Gunkel Township, which is between Arthur and Gardner north of Fargo. He played basketball and baseball while attending what is now known as Mayville State University.
He taught business education and coached basketball at Grafton High School, his obituary said.
“His love of sports included years of reffing basketball and playing on several championship fastpitch softball teams for Grafton and other area teams,” the obituary said.
In addition to being a loan officer in Grafton, he was involved in several radio stations in North Dakota.
That included owning and managing KXPO in Grafton starting in the early 1970s. It was there that he hired Don Haney as a news reporter and Steve Larson to cover sports. The two former KXPO employees called Pearson a mentor and a friend.
"Gary was clearly a one-of-a-kind person," Larson said. "He was the most energetic man that I've probably ever run into. He was a positive thinker from every aspect."
Haney, who is a reporter and news anchor at KFGO in Fargo, said Pearson was a go-getter. He recalled being sent by Pearson to Washington, D.C., to cover a protest by thousands of farmers in 1979.
“He did things at a small-market radio station like Grafton that other stations in big cities did,” Haney said of Pearson, who sold his interest in KXPO in the 1990s.
Pearson had a lot of ideas that he put into action, Larson said. One included giving away a car by inviting people to put their hands on the vehicle, and the last person touching it won it.
"A lot of his ideas were meant for the betterment of others," he said. "He was an extremely generous guy."
Larson said Pearson would go with him to broadcast local games, sometimes 250 to 300 a year.
"That was his love," Larson said. "He was a sports nut, and he enjoyed that kind of stuff."
Pearson shot from the hip while his KXPO partner, Del Nygard, was more conservative, according to Nygard.
"He always said we made a good pair," Nygard said. "As far as partners go, I think we got along as good as any partners can ever get along."
He was instrumental in getting KZZY, a radio station in Devils Lake, on air in 1984. Kay Schwab, the radio station’s office manager, recalled Pearson being organized and outgoing.
“He pretty much trained every department,” she said. “All of the employees were new to radio. None of us even knew how it worked. He got us all running on track.”
The start of the station got positive feedback, she said. Pearson sold his interest in KZZY in 1989.
In noting his generosity, Schwab said Pearson would take staff out for dinner.
Finding out that Pearson died was a tremendous loss, Haney said. Larson said he was shocked and devastated to hear the news.
"For these past three days since I found out, I have done nothing but think about the great memories and fond memories and talk about them with others," Larson said. "And it's just very tragic."
Even after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, Pearson wanted to do things, Haney said. He was still very active, particularly in getting out to golf, Nygard said. The two would go golfing often, which was Pearson's passion, he added.
"We had good times, and he was really a good guy," Nygard said. "I really miss him."
Pearson's family declined to comment for this story.