Virginia Pearson Anderson

Birth Date: 
Aug 2, 1922
Date of death: 
May 3, 2021

Resident of Oakland

Born in Oakland, California, in the aftermath of World War I and the Great Flu Pandemic, Virginia Lee Pearson was the first of three children born to war veteran James Pearson and his wife Lucille. The family business, Pearson’s Hardware on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, survived the storms of the Great Depression. More tragic for Virginia and her two brothers was the death of their mother from pneumonia in 1931.

Virginia attended Oakland public schools, joining a close group of friends with whom she maintained contact throughout her life. She graduated from Oakland Technical High School in 1940, with war clouds gathering in Europe and the U.S. trying desperately to stay neutral. By the time she graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1944, the student body had changed radically, with many of the young men having enlisted or been drafted, and all Japanese students taken to internment.

A few years after graduation, Virginia went on to get a teaching credential, met her future husband, J. Herbert Anderson, on VJ Day in 1945, and got her first teaching job in Antioch, CA. In 1946, Virginia and Herb were wed, and within four years had added two children and established themselves in Alameda. After Kathy and Denny were both in school, Virginia returned to teaching at Alameda High School. Over the next 31 years, the English Department became her home, and she worked with a wonderful group of teachers who became lifelong friends.

At various times during her career, Virginia was a PTA President, a thorn in the side of some principals, a tireless preparer of seniors for the dreaded Subject A exam at Cal, a strong supporter of student arts and sports activities. She taught her children that the most important person in the school is the school secretary and that you always want her on your side. She generally addressed her students by their last names, preceded by Miss or Mr, and preferred to be addressed formally as well.

She loved running into former students and hearing how they were doing. In recent years, she attended the 50th reunion of the classes of 1961 and 1965, and thoroughly enjoyed both. At the time of the later, she was getting around with a walker and was less mobile. So former students, and some who had never even been in her classes, dropped by her table all evening to talk with her, reminisce, and tell her those things that teachers love to hear, about how their favorite book is one they read in her class, and how the writing exercises she put them through paid off in college. At the end of the evening the smile on her face was a mile wide.

In 1986, Virginia retired from teaching and a few years later, Herb retired too. They began traveling, frequently going to England to stay and travel with the Gardiner family, whom Herb had met in England when he was stationed there during World War II. In 1993, Virginia and Herb moved to a retirement community in Oakland. By 2021, Virginia was the longest living resident at “The Towers” and had moved into Assisted Living, where she could get more care, but still enjoy the privacy of her own apartment. She fell in late April and was bedridden three days before she died in her own bed with her daughter at her side.

The family hopes to have an outdoor memorial service in the summer or fall, whenever the coronavirus permits a safe group gathering. Virginia was preceded in death by her brothers, James and Robert Pearson, her husband J. Herbert Anderson, her son Frank Denny Anderson, and all the other Pearsons and Andersons of her generation. She is remembered fondly by daughter Kathryn Anderson, niece Susan Anderson Berg (Arthur), and nephew Richard Anderson, cousins June Anderson LaFollette, Joyce Anderson Brungardt and MaryKrakow, grand-nieces and grand-nephews, and many students who passed through her classroom.

For anyone who would like to make a donation in her memory, the following organizations were important to her:

1. Inequality Media — https://www.inequalitymedia.org
2. Economic Policy Institute — https://www.epi.org/about/
3. Oakland Museum of California — https://museumca.org/omca-at-home
4. KDFC Radio, the classical station — https://www.kdfc.com