Chef Dave Pearson Medical Care Fund
He goes by many names: Chef, David, Dave, Papa to his granddaughter Shayna. But to many athletes, managers, and other team members at Dodger Stadium, he goes by my favorite name Pops.
Chef David Pearson has been working for the Dodgers for 51 years, spreading his unflagging energy and enthusiasm with every meal. But today, as we sit in the car in front of the Stadium Club, he’s not gearing up to sprint around the bases in the kitchen. He’s taking a walk in his battle with lung cancer.
If you are lucky, you are one of the privileged people who has seen Dave in action during his 51-year tenure in the Dodger Stadium kitchen. Hopefully you got to enjoy one of his famous meals. Barring that, you may be one of the millions of fans who caught the beautifully written piece by Bill Plaschke on the cover of the Los Angeles Times sports page, or saw Dave’s TV appearance on My Grandma’s Ravioli, “A Home Run in the Kitchen. ”
Shayna and I have been lucky enough to enjoy visits with Pops to Dodger Stadium. I have fond memories of our family trips to the ballpark, but my favorite part of every game is when it is time to visit him in the Press Box dining room, where he has cooked another one of his famous meals for the press, the managers, and whichever VIPs are on hand that day. We could always count on his delicious food and his warm smile, beaming out from beneath his chef’s hat, perhaps standing beneath the sign that bears his moniker: “Dave’s Diner.” He always asks each person how they are doing and insists on an update on their children, spouse, and parents.
But on this August day, one of the hottest on record at Dodger Stadium, we were waiting for a wheelchair to arrive. After some disappointing news from the doctors that the Chemo hasn’t been working as he had hoped, Dave’s first thought on this blistering summer day was to head to the ballpark to watch the game. As soon as we got out of the car I could tell it would be a bittersweet visit. We were immediately intercepted by a fan that recognized him from the LA Times article, offering him good wishes and prayers. The lump in my throat never went away, and at the moment I’m not sure it ever will.
We went into the Press-box dining room where Vin Scully, Tommy Lasorda, Rick Monday and Charlie Steiner, and other old friends were surprised to see Pops back in his familiar domain. The joy, love, and support that poured into the room over the next hour was overwhelming. It is an hour I will never forget. Countless Dodgers employees and Dodger legends such as Fernando Venezuela lined up to greet Pops, take photos, and share their gratitude for all he has done for them. Sure, they noticed the oxygen tank that had hitched a ride with him on his wheelchair. They saw the plastic tubes draped around his ears and leading into his nose. But what stood out most was the sparkle in his eyes, a glimmer that refuses to die. They gripped his hand and feasted on the smile that still comes so naturally. This is the way life is now for Pops, but he still radiated his confidence and enthusiasm, spreading joy with every labored breath. Of course there were a few close friends who had few words, just a penetrating look and a knowing gaze, perhaps pondering the gratitude and respect that they have shared.
And then we all sat back and watched the Dodgers beat the Reds 8 to 3. We enjoyed the excitement, the camaraderie, and the good food that has always marked our visits there. But for me it wasn’t the four home runs the Dodgers hit that made the evening special. It was the chance to share a few precious moments with the man I call Pops in the place where he has always belonged.
His next phase of chemo is taking its toll. We need to make the house safe so he and his love of his life and devoted wife Sherry can continue to provide him with the home care that allows him to be comfortable. So for those of you who have been touched by Pops or want to “give one back to the team,” please consider helping Dave and Sherry with a small contribution.
· A phone call or a card
· A prayer or a good wish
· A monetary gift to help equip his home with safety features and conveniences
Shayna and I thank you for your support, and thank you Pops and Sherry for continuing to exhibit the strength, determination, and grace that have always been a hallmark of the Dodgers team.
It was time and I wanted to be brave and vibrant in the stories I had to share. Others would stand and project out to the crowd, but I knew it would be awkward for me, I had to think outside the box since all of the other speakers were professional broadcasters, actors and performers. I asked Shayna to stand by me, I wanted her to be seen, if not heard, and I needed her support. I asked for bar stools for us to sit on so I could pretend I was sitting in a living room talking to a small group. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I know it felt so good to reach out to Shayna to put my arm around her shoulder while telling my stories. This felt good and Pops would be so happy to see us up there together supporting each other. One of the speakers said you may not remember what someone said or did but you will remember how you felt. This is one of those pearls of wisdom I will carry with me for life.
We were told there was one more very special guest. I wondered who that could be. I was looking all around the room and out the door to see who would be entering. I heard a familiar voice which startled me. It was a video of Pops talking from a hospital bed just 2 weeks before he passed! With oxygen on draped around his ears and into his nose, deep breaths, trying to speak strong --Dodger strong -- he talked about his pride in being a True Blue Dodger. He thanked Tommy, Vin and his Dodger family members. After the memorial we were able to go on the Dodger field; the aroma of the lawn was swirling in the air, as we were looking up at where Pops worked in the Press Box. Ending the Memorial with a walk through Dave’s Diner where we were just looking up to take a longing glance, seeing the Press looking down taking photos of us. A few more goodbyes and then a long ride home. Thankfully greeted by family and a few friends; we ate, drank scotch and danced Jazz and Motown in Dave style…..just the way he would have spent a beautiful weekend evening.
The next day I took the train back to Santa Barbara after the rest of my family had left in the car earlier during the day so I could have more time with my mom. I stepped off the train and so did the tall black saxophone player I had seen a couple of weeks ago at the Van Nuys station. He took out his saxophone, put it together and started playing. I felt as if Pops had escorted me back home.
The emotions are spinning in my head and I’m still feeling exhausted as my mind struggles between the living in the moment of good times to my heart breaking from missing him and thinking about the future without him. But I am forever grateful for the Celebration of Life, gathering strength from old friends and new alike. Thank you all for taking this ride with me.
Celebration of Life
Time to reflect, time to come together, time to share
Please join David Pearson's family and friends to share something remembered.
Place: Dodger Stadium Club
Date: Saturday, October 3, 2015
Time: 11:00 – 1:00
Special thanks to The Dodgers and the Levy Group for opening their doors to honor Chef Dave Pearson.
Please RSVP name of each guest by 9/25/15
Names will be on a list to be cleared through the guard at Gate A (entrance off Sunset Blvd).
Our love and thanks to the many friends and family members who have given support. Your sweet notes are helping us through this difficult time. The care Dave was able to receive was as he would say fantastic and beautiful.
Sherry, Trish & Shayna
We arrived to find Nick and his dog Barney who would sit on the end of Pop’s bed and lay his chin on Pop’s leg. Barney greeted us and showed us the way to the bed. With the prancing of Barney’s feet against the hardwood floors, Pop’s began to open his eyes. Pop said “Good to see you, I’m so glad you could come again this weekend, I’ve been waiting for you. I’m hoping you guys can help me sit up a bit more and maybe we could get me into the wheelchair to go outside on the patio.” The attempt was hard on Pops just to try to sit up a bit more as it caused him pain to be moved. We knew he wasn’t able to be moved to see the outside gardens that spread across their beautiful backyard, where so many special occasions were spent basking in joyous occasions and simply intimate moments.
Intimacy takes on a whole new meaning when you go through a journey such as the transition of life with a loved one. We sat around and talked about good times, how after our first meeting with Pops ten years ago, Garrett blurted out “I told you he would be cool!” We try to relive the story of driving through Griffith Park and Pops is too short on breath. Pop told us Shayna was here and she looked so beautiful today. Garrett was able to say his goodbyes with a……. “I’ll see you again Pops, I love you”. It was time for Garrett to go back to Santa Barbara on the train. We had cut the timing short to get to the train station because it was so hard to leave. I placed Pop’s favorite classic jazz station on to enjoy when I was ready to leave. When we made it to the train station we were notified the train would be late, which was a good time to sit and reflect. Out of the blue a tall black man, takes out his saxophone and starts playing. I feel as if Pops has followed us here. The train arrives with each boxcar named a different city. I took a step back to wave goodbye and see the boxcar Garrett is on is named Griffith Park. I look to the right and find myself giving a gesture as if I’m giving Pop’s a smile and a nod. The train goes chugging down the tracks into the darkness and my heart feels the heaviness of saying goodbye.
The night was long and hard, we had to call for a nurse to come to help as Pop’s breathing became it became more intense. Lucy our care giver, which was the best gift all of you could have given us from you kind donations, was there by his bed praying nearly silently for him to be out of pain. With the help of the team we were able to help keep him comfortable. It was no longer time for cheers of Go Team David, it was time of defeat and upon his request we looked toward the next game……. the next life. I realized he stopped talking to us here on this earth from the time we went to the train station because his breath and words all went out to the team ready to greet him. We know we will meet again for team David and he will be there to greet us. Pop’s time had come to pass and so we will continue to carry his spirit on our journey here and look forward to greeting Pop with his big beautiful smile.
Some of my fondest memories of Dodger Stadium include your sweet smile and of course your great cooking! Remember my friend, you still owe me a cooking lesson! Cameron left for the D.R. last night so I am writing on behalf of both of us. I am praying for you. Much love from your Sherman Oaks team!
Trish, David & Sherry What a beautiful picture of you three. David, you look just as handsome as ever. Wow Trish. What a beautiful letter you put out there for all to read about what a wonderful giant of a man David is. David has a heart of gold that my dear friend Sherry is soooo lucky to have. I have been to their home for some of the most delicious meals I and everybody else there have eaten. His wife Sherry loves that man so much. They are a beautiful couple. David, you are a very strong man and we all know you WILL BEAT this. God Bless you. Love and miss you and Sherry. Your in my thoughts and prayers. Love, Lynda & Earl