John Newton Pearce, 84, died Monday, October 14, 2019, at Hughes Home in Fredericksburg, Virginia. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, he was born March 23, 1935, the son of the late Edgar Maurice Pearce and Suzanne Voige Pearce. John attended public schools in Baltimore, graduating from the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. He received his B.A. from Yale University in 1956 and his M.A. in Early American Culture from the Winterthur Program of the University of Delaware in 1958. He began his career as an Associate Curator at the Smithsonian, preparing exhibits at the National Museum of American History.
From there he moved on to the position of Curator of Properties for the National Trust for Historic Preservation where his proudest accomplishment was the opening to the public of Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, New York. Following the National Trust, he became the State Historic Preservation Officer for the Maryland in Annapolis. He subsequently became Associate Professor of Urban Planning and American Civilization at George Washington University, directing the graduate historic preservation program.
After a brief stint as Managing Editor for the short-lived magazine Chesapeake Country Life, he began teaching in 1984 in the newly developed Historic Preservation program at Mary Washington College, where he was eventually named Assistant Professor and Assistant Director of the program. In 1989, he was named Director of Planning and Programs at the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library, and in 1993, he became the Museum’s Director.
Among his accomplishments at the museum were starting the “Little Welsh Festival” in honor of Monroe’s Welsh heritage, developing an annual James Monroe Lecture, and adopting the 18th century Masonic Cemetery nest door to the museum. John retired in 2010. John was an active member of St. George’s Church, singing in the Choir and serving on a number of committees, especially those that related to the history and preservation of the structure. In 2011, he was one of seven Americans to receive the NSDAR History Medal. John was pre-deceased by his former wife Lorraine Waxman Pearce.
He is survived by his children, David Scott Pearce of Fredericksburg and Dr. Hannah Phillips Pearce of Charlottesville, Virginia, and her husband, Dr. Bruce Cohen; four grandchildren, Madeline, Aaron, Benjamin, and Eli Cohen; and his friend and former wife Alix Sommer (Pearce) Smith. A memorial service will be held at St. George’s Episcopal Church at 11:00 a.m., Monday, October 21. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. George’s Episcopal Church, 905 Princess Anne Street, Fredericksburg, VA 22401 or the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library, 908 Charles Street, Fredericksburg, VA 22401. Online condolences and fond memories of John may be offered to the family at www.laurelhillfuneralhome.com