ALLENDALE, N.J. — Richard D. "Rick" Pearson, founder of tire-service vehicle fabricator Fleet Equipment Corp., died May 3 at age 89 after a three-year battle with cancer.
A native of Akron, Ohio, Pearson's first exposure to the tire industry was in 1959 when he was hired by General Tire & Rubber Co. as a territory salesman after serving in the U.S. Army and marrying his wife and future business partner Mary Ann.
It was during this time that he saw the need for a complete tire service truck, the family wrote in his obituary.
He left General Tire and went to work for Hesse Carriage Co., a Kansas City, Kan.-based specialty vehicle maker. He was promoted to plant manager for Hesse Carriage's East Coast factory in New Jersey, but the tire service industry kept calling him, the family said, and in 1965 he and Mary Ann pooled their available cash reserves of $300 and founded Fleet Equipment Corp.
As the company grew, it opened a fabricating plant in Pennsylvania. It remains headquartered today in Franklin Lakes, N.J.
Pearson was considered an innovator and pioneer in the tire service truck industry and earned the respect of his customers and vendors, the family said, noting that he enjoyed mentoring others who were striking out on their own.
Pearson never officially retired from FEC, working from home up until the past few months, Mary Ann Pearson said. The Pearsons continue to be owners of FEC, which continues be a significant supplier of tire-service trucks.
According to his family, he was an avid sports fan, enjoyed deep-sea fishing and was a lover of dogs, particularly his black Labrador retrievers. He supported his wife Mary Ann's charity involvement with children's charities.
Pearson grew up in Bath, Ohio, near Akron and graduated from Ohio State University. He served in the Army's Nike/Hercules Missile Division in Fort Bliss, Texas, and later at Fort Knox, Ky.
Besides his wife of 65 years and business partner for the past 58 years, Mary Ann, he is survived by son Scott (Margaret); daughter Pam; and and two grandsons. He is pre-deceased by a granddaughter.
A celebration of life will be held at Trinity Church in Allendale May 12 at 6 p.m. In lieu of flowers, please send donations in Rick Pearson's name to support Dr. Abou-Alfa and his work at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Checks to be made payable to: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and mailed to MSK Cancer Center, Office of Development, P.O. Box 27106, New York, N.Y. 10087 and mark in the memo line: "In memory of Rick Pearson."