Remembering John Pearce

Remembering John Pearce

John Pearce’s legacy is defined in the following quotes from NCHS student alumni who participated in performing arts events created and directed by John Pearce between 1965 and his retirement in1985. The following quotes appeared in The Guest Book for John H. Pearce upon his passing in 2008, and also in subsequent Facebook entries up through 2014.

We would like for this page to be a living document. If you would like to include a memory about JP, please compose the piece and send it to Raeleen Horn – Steering Committee Chair – She will be happy to post your thoughts on the website.

J.P. – Just thinking of the initials brings an image of a shock of dark, wavy hair and perhaps an ascot tucked neatly into a crisply ironed striped shirt. And that walk – filled with energy at every step — A quick wit, a full-throated laugh, and an amazing dedication to the possibilities and potential that both an individual and a group could accomplish. That was always the essence of JP as teacher and director. When (he) saw the potential in my artistic ability, he made it possible for me to be the first non-choral member to work on a JP musical at NCHS, and then, of course, (he) saw to it that I was drafted into chorus for my senior year! My love of music, design, performing, and especially the ensemble efforts of musical theatre was enriched and encouraged by…JP. And friendships were formed that hold fast to this very day, all due to the love and dedication that JP brought to his profession. A taskmaster – indeed! But never asking more than he knew you were capable of giving – just pushing you to realize what you could achieve. I am honored to have had…JP…in my life, and (it was his) examples of support and guidance well after graduation from NCHS that inspired me to move on to a professional performing career and to carry life lessons that I know I can still tap into today. I’m sure the choirs of angels are better in tune and in glorious voice for having JP and his baton in hand.


Mark Hawbecker

Class of ’72

1968 – a young man enters into an arena full of vinegar and the absurdity of youth – knowing everything. He engages a force – a force of creativity, of expectations, of a drive not just for perfection, but for growth and the best of what is possible – not unreasonable. The boy becomes a man under his tutelage. John Pearce was a force of nature in my life. He spent time with me, saw in me what could be – and yet allowed me to be the thorn in his side that often is the teenager in the midst. He had a strange mixture of acceptance and intolerance that made you know you were accepted but that more was expected of you…much of what I am today is linked with what he helped me become. He will always be a part of the fabric of my life. Thank you, John, for the many gifts you have given me – the love of music and dance; a belief in what is possible and a roadmap that I can follow to make what is in my mind and heart come into the reality of my life. You will be (and are) missed.

Thom Parrott-Sheffer

My most fond high school memories are pretty much centered around my experiences with…John. I learned my work ethics from him, and they have served me well. All things that shaped my life experiences at NCHS and continue even today (are) all due to his teachings (and) his shared life experiences – all things that make me reflect and smile…I even miss his ‘sshht’ to quiet us down.

Mike Harkins

I was just telling a student the other day about the amazing musicals we put on under Mr. Pearce’s direction. There’ll never be another like him…

Kim Frost (Reavley)

Class of '84

I will be forever grateful to have known Mr. Pearce and to have studied with him. A teacher like him can be had only once in a lifetime if you’re lucky. He put a little music in all of us … may he rest with God’s loving choir.

Suzanne (Caesar) Ring

I have read all of the entries in the Guest Book so far and there isn’t much I can add to the outpouring of love and respect for John Pearce. I owe him a deep debt of gratitude for (his) love and generosity, and soft shoulders. He knew how to crack the whip and get me to strive to be my best.

Marguerite Amer

Class of ’74

How do you sign a guest book for a man like John Pearce — a man with whom I had a love/hate relationship? I adored him, yet he pushed me to my emotional limit…One of the most important things he taught me was that I had to reach for my dreams and desires…He brought us so many experiences that we would never have had without him…I get a picture of him in my mind when I am directing our high school musicals…When I have no budget at all, I think of those wonderful Brooks Van Horn costumes we wore (in our shows)…I am sure that JP has said his Bye, Bye Birdie to all of his students while ascending to his Camelot somewhere past the Carousel in his own South Pacific island paradise where he will have a magnificent eternity!

Mary (Koch) Taour

Class of '78

To [John Pearce] my mentor and friend: God truly blessed the day I walked into his classroom. I never learned so much from anyone as from his guidance and teaching. He was the one who taught me about hard work and perfectionism. He gave me chances to be what I dreamed about, and taught me to how to be strong enough not to give up. I am proud that he was my friend…and will be blessed with the memories of beautiful music-making the rest of my life.

Cindy (Halgrimson) Walzer

Class of '75

How does one begin to put into words the effect of a teacher like John Pearce? I am just one of the multitude of lives touched by this special man. (He) confirmed my decision to pursue a career in music and provided me with the skills to become a music educator and accompanist. From the wonderful choral experiences to the musicals, NCHS was never better than under JP. (He) touched my family’s lives as a teacher, a friend, and a neighbor. My two brothers and I are now spread out across the country, but we have never forgotten our wonderful times spent with you, John.

Linda (Holt) Bender

I have so many fond memories of JP that it’s hard to know where to begin. He made me the musician I am today (I have never stopped accompanying, John!), and instilled in me a love for music that will never be quenched. He was one of those teachers that not only expected the best from you but made you WANT to give your best. I’ve been an accompanist for many choral programs in many different states and none have even remotely come close to the one we had at NCHS under John Pearce!

Julie (McConnell) Holt

Class of ’74

Our dearest JP was not only our teacher but our inspiration. He took us to places that most teens could never imagine. Mr. Pearce gave us the gift of music with all the lovely Broadway shows. We cherish all the songs and still sing them to each other whenever we meet, 30-plus years later. And of course, costumes from Brooks Van Horn in NYC. Who else but our “beloved” Mr. Pearce could have brought such class to Naperville? He even got me on an airplane for the first time when the Madrigals were invited to perform in California, and he charmed the entire American flight by having us sing to the passengers. He was always the top notch performer — ‘Stellar!’ — he would say. I thank God for the blessing of having him in my life. I could go on forever, but he would tell me, ‘sshht!’

Jennifer (Hagemann) Berthold

I do not think of any one person who impacted my life more than…JP. I am so blessed to have had the experience of (his) friendship, love, and encouragement at a time when I needed it the most.

Sue Gleason Walk

John is a gift – an ever-presence in my creativity, both in his living and in his parting.

Linda Baumheckel

(John) was a pillar in the community and a hero in our hearts. (He) confronted reality, turned us into stars, musicians, performers, actors, and gave us guts, wisdom and strength to challenge everything that lies ahead…Thank you (John) for your eternal home runs!

George Goetschel

One of a myriad of JP’s behaviorally disordered students

In everyone’s high school life there is one teacher who stands out above all others and JP, that was you. So often you just still pop into my mind… the musicals, the madrigals, the trip to Cincinnati…You (are) missed but never forgotten. Thank you for having such an impact on my life and on so many others.

Barb (Small) Akan

I began at NCHS the same year that John did (1965) and was nurtured by (him) all 4 years as a singer, accompanist, and person. Music is still and always my life’s work, and my joy, (and) my life is forever better because of him.

Michelle (Hayes) Hynson

Class of '69

It was a particularly difficult period in my life and knowing that I had Choir with Mr. Pearce was the ONLY thing I looked forward to every day in high school. I look back on my years…with Mr. Pearce as ‘saving my life,’ and giving me the love and guidance to continue in the music field. I write this with tears in my eyes…for a man who I will NEVER FORGET!

Cynthia (Cindy Patterson) Robertson

Having had Mr. Pearce through all four years of NCHS Choir, I am saddened by his passing. He was an excellent director who never accepted less than he knew we were capable of.

Lori (Jorgensen) Janiec

I was privileged to have been under the tutelage of Mr. Pearce for three years at NCHS. My memories are filled with fun, learning, competitions, musicals, selling tickets and World’s Finest Chocolates (Yes, for a prize!), friendships, and lots of hard work! As others have said, he was the best of the best! He demanded perfection and would settle for nothing less from his students. We respected and loved him. One of the memories I will always treasure is Mr. Pearce telling me, a shy, insecure, freshman musical student that I could sing! I was hooked, Mr. Pearce! Thank you for giving me confidence in my abilities.

Susan (Owens) Hanus

Class of ’71

My deepest respect for what (JP) gave me and thousands of others. At a critical juncture in our development from children to adults (he) expanded our comprehension of, and spiritual nourishment from, the very music he taught us to sing. For me, personally, (he) took a geeky, stage-shy goof-off, taught me how to breath properly, …how to project, and pushed me to work at both…pushed me on stage and convinced me that I could overcome my fear and do it. I was only one of many. That personal, individual attention was common to the man and his mission. Everyone mattered and everyone was treated that way. (He) gave us all the gift of song and for that, we will all be ever grateful.

Mark Thoman

Class of ’72

Not everybody touched by JP was an aspiring, talented musical star…many were like myself – just kids who liked to sing and be part of the musical theater in some way. That love of music and theater has propelled me through my life as a second grade teacher for 32 years. I treasure the times I spent in choir back in 68-69. Not everybody is destined to be a star in the music arena, but it doesn’t mean that we weren’t influenced, touched, and forever changed from being taught by someone like John Pearce. He would tell us that everyone in every production matters in their own special way, and this is something I hope I have passed on to the many (students) I have taught these many years. Each of you is SOMEBODY, and go out and make the most of whatever that is!

Pat Rivait

Class of ’69

To my teacher and my friend: John, you were both to me – during the high school years and far beyond. You always demanded excellence and thereby brought out excellence in your students. Thank you for your honest and unwavering support, and for opening your heart and home to me. Your impact as a teacher reached far beyond the confines of school buildings, concert halls, or the musical stage. I will always value our friendship. Although in these later years we didn’t see each other often, you were regularly in my thoughts, and the life lessons you taught constantly guide me. You will be greatly missed, and your memory will last throughout my life and the lives of countless students. I’m confident that you know how much you meant to me…and how much you are loved.

David Stewart

All of us eventually remember one teacher as the best, and JP was just that. No one was able to get the best out of me like JP. A professional that did not stand for mediocrity, and a friend. Who will ever forget that laugh! Plus, I can still see his look from the orchestra pit when I strayed from the script. (His) incredible support could make any of us sound good!

Tom Bursh

“Oh my gosh. I’m one of the “older” students who had the privilege of working with John Pearce during his first two years at NCHS. It has been said that a teacher is successful if he can remain objective and treat all of his students the same. John Pearce was not like that. He had a unique talent – he treated each one of his students differently – and they loved that! He brought me to tears (of joy) more than once when he praised, pushed, and convinced me that there were no mountains I couldn’t scale. Over the years when things weren’t going well, I would hear him saying ‘Everything you need to succeed is already inside of you – just bring it out.’ He will always remain the finest teacher, mentor, and educating friend I have ever known. The choirs of angels are at attention. Raise the baton, John.

Bonnie Owens

Class of '67