Eleanor Forbes Pierson

Five decade fixture at Foothill Country Day, great-grandmother was 103

After a full life of love, service and adventure, Eleanor Forbes Pierson has died in her beloved Claremont at the age of 103.

Eleanor was born to Grace Gammon Forbes of Pasadena, and Kenneth Bradshaw Forbes of Wisconsin. Along with their second daughter, Marcia Forbes Manker, they raised their family at their 1920s lemon ranch, “Loma Vista,” on north Padua Ave for more than 40 years.

She told stories about all night “smudging” in the groves to keep the lemons from freezing. She drove a tractor in the groves to keep the weeds down. Before she was 16, she often drove the large ranch truck loaded with lemons to the Claremont Packing House where they would be sorted, packed, and sent back east for sale.

The Forbes family was deeply involved in the creation of Padua Hills Theatre. Her father traveled to Mexico with Bess Garner to gather photos and film recordings of native dances and music. Scores of the workers on the lemon ranches were the first to perform at the historic Claremont theater.

She was introduced to the sport of tennis early by her father, who built a rock walled court on the ranch. This was the beginning of a lifelong love for the game. She played into her mid-90s and was a charter member of the Claremont Tennis Club. Her parents also owned a cottage above Shaw’s Cove in Laguna Beach while she was growing up, where for decades weekends and holidays were spent happily swimming, body surfing, and entertaining family and friends.

She attended Claremont Elementary School (now Sycamore Elementary), Girls Collegiate (now Western Christian) and graduated from Pomona College in 1941. During the Second World War, she met her future husband while working for the contractor of the Dos Palos airfield in California’s Central Valley. Lenn Pierson, from La Grande, Oregon, was a flight instructor at the field. Their nuptials were at Pomona College’s Little Bridges Chapel, in Claremont.

Their honeymoon continued until Lt. Pierson was deployed overseas to transport supplies from India to China. This theater of operations ran nonstop dangerous routes over the Himalayas, often referred to as “the hump.” The weather, geography and enemy claimed countless airmen’s lives, among them her husband’s brother, Lt. Ray Pierson.

The couple reunited upon his return and began their family. He kept flying until he was 80, selling aircraft, instructing hundreds of pilots, and leading flying adventures to Mexico and South America. His own offspring were later his best students, including Forbes Malcom Pierson (deceased, 2004), Cynthia Pierson (Ted Schleicher) of Prescott, Arizona, Jan Pierson (Geoff Stevenson) of Scio, Oregon, and Douglas Pierson (Julee Pierson) of Chino Valley, Arizona. The couple is also survived by four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

She began at Foothill Country Day School by becoming a charter parent and volunteer. After joining the staff in 1964, she helped organize, run, and inspire with her tireless efforts, shaping hundreds of Foothill Country Day students along the way and training all the heads of the school. Over more than 50 years of innovative work in administration and admissions she helped open paths for many Country Day children, now successful world contributors.

She traveled all over the world, starting with trips to Mexico with her husband and their children after he returned from the war. He flew and she was the tour organizer long before cell phones and the internet. Often the places they were to visit had no phones or airports at all. These facts did not hinder their adventurous spirit or ability to make these trips successful. Later she traveled extensively to Africa, Europe, South America, New Guinea, Croatia, and returned often to her beloved Mexico.

During the barely perceivable slowdown following her retirement, after 50 years of service, she loved being at home with her garden, wildlife, birds, and enjoyed visits by family and friends.

“Throughout her life, her interactions with people were perceptive, kind, and sincere,” her family shared. “All agree that no one ever heard her say an unkind word about anyone. She was a mentor to many and a fun and playful mother to her kids and grandkids. She passionately believed in education, travel and having an open mind to all possibilities.”

In 2010, she opened the “Eleanor Pierson Scholarship” at Foothill Country Day School with the intention of allowing qualified students to attend regardless of their ability to pay. The school and her family are asking those who wish to honor her years of making a difference to donate to this special fund at foothillcds.org/domain/1080, or by check to 1035 W. Harrison Ave., Claremont, CA 91711.

The family will gather in May at Shaw’s Cove to celebrate her life in a private ceremony.

“Thank you to all her uncountable friends and families who have reached out to us to tell their wonderful stories about our mom!” her family added.


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