We’ve lost one our affilaite’s pioneers, and—for many of us—a dear friend. Jeff Pearcy has been waging a battle against dementia for the past few years, and Sunday, he passed away.
“Jeff was a larger than life character,” said Norma Crosby, President of the NFB of Texas. “He was always quick with a joke. He never met a blind person he wasn’t willing to help if they needed it.”
For about ten years, Jeff taught in the kitchen at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. So many of his students remember Jeff teaching them to conquer their fears of the charcoal grill, deep fryers, and of blindness in general.
Barbecuing, playing music, and having the occasional cold beer were three of his favorite pursuits, and when he was busy with those activities, he often shared a joke—or 100—with whomever might be joining him for the occasion. He mentored many blind people, and he and Zena opened their home to more people in need than could be counted.
“Jeff was the kind of Texan I can only hope to be a fraction of,” said Gabe Cazares. “His generosity knew no bounds, and I am blessed I had the opportunity to have him as a teacher at the LCB. I learned leaps and bounds about my native Texas and the NFB of Texas because of his incredible stories.”
Jeff served as First Vice President of the Texas affiliate for many years, and he, Glenn Crosby, and Tommy Craig worked together to ensure passage of some of our most meaningful legislation, including a Braille bill, legislation that outlawed insurance discrimination against the blind, and the law that put Kursweil Reading Machines in public libraries in all Texas cities with a population of at least 50,000. So if you walk into a public library in Texas and find a space with access technology for blind and low-vision people, it is likely there because of the efforts of these three men and countless other Federationists who worked hard to secure passage of the Kurzweil legislation.
“I can remember being a scared, confused, and lost young blind person, when I arrived at the Texas School for the Blind,” said Jeanine Lineback, President of the Austin Chapter. “Jeff and Zena gave me guidance, a sense of myself as a blind person, and lots of love and laughter over the years.”
In addition to people, Jeff loved canines—both guide dogs and pet dogs—just as much. In all, he had four Seeing Eye dogs: Niki, Mac, Wes and Adam.
“He was a really good dog handler and an example to other dog users,” Norma Crosby said. “He was always willing to give help and advice to others who used dogs and those who were considering a dog as a mobility tool.”
Jeff’s most long-lasting relationship was with his wife, Zena. The two of them grew up together, and they would have celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary in June. When he became ill, Zena did what she has always done: she cared for him.
“Each of them brought color to the other’s world,” Norma Crosby said. “Jeff was the character who always had something going on; Zena has always been the calming influence who also loved all the adventures Jeff took her on.”
In 1986, Jeff and Zena had a son, and Wayne became the center of both their universes. They worked hard to provide him with the opportunities he needed to succeed as a blind person, and he grew up to attend the prestigious Berklee School of Music. Jeff was so proud that his son was carrying on the family tradition of sharing music. A great guitar player himself, Jeff shared his music by helping to organize and support the annual Southern Strums fundraiser for the Texas Association of Blind Students.
Jeff Pearcy celebrated life every day, and he was an unapologetic lover of Texas.
“I am pretty sure some of his students in Louisiana grew weary of all his tall tales about Texas, but he shared them anyway…that is who he was,” Norma Crosby said.
He died in his native Waco on Sunday afternoon, and the world is a poorer place for his passing.
Visitation: Wednesday, April 5 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at at Connally-Compton Funeral Directors (4400 W Waco Drive, Waco, TX)
Service:Thursday, April 6 at 1 p.m. with a graveside ceremony and reception to follow