San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)
Anita Nones Pearson
March 19, 1935-April 24, 2021
“Let me be the one…” Anita Nones Pearson, beloved matriarch of a vast family and caregiver to numerous children as well as people struggling alone with end-of-life illnesses, died on April 24 surrounded by family and friends. The cause was liver cancer and kidney failure. She was 86.
Called “Mama” by virtually everyone who knew her, Anita’s modest two-story home in San Francisco’s Sunset District has served for decades as a sanctuary for relatives and friends alike, a loving shelter that embodied the animating spirit of her life; to care for her family, to give succor to those in need.
“She was always there for us, feeding us, helping us financially, letting us stay with her until we could get on our feet,” said one of her nephews. “Every Friday night, family members from across the Bay Area would convene for Mama’s cooking, followed by mahjong, and late-night boxing. Her house was our home base.” “Whatever happened in my life, I knew she’d be there to help,” said her granddaughter, Krystal. “What will I do without her?”
Born Anita Balmaceda in Batangas, Philippines in 1935, the second of eight children, Anita experienced the tumult of WWII at a young age, fleeing nearby battles and recalling once how her father was forced to seek medicine for her from occupying Japanese forces. She married at a young age before completing her formal education. When the marriage ended, she found herself dependent on her relatives with four children to support. In 1970, at age 35, she came to San Francisco on a visitor’s visa, determined to find a better future for her own kids.
Slowly and steadily, she turned the skills she learned supporting her family–sewing, cutting hair, cooking, rearing children, as well as carpentry, plumbing, painting, household budgeting—into a career that made her a homeowner and family provider in less than a decade.
“Mama is the one person I’d want with me if I was marooned on a desert island,” a longtime friend whose children she helped raise would say in awe of her resilience.
Soon after her arrival in
San Francisco, Anita met and married Alfred Nones, a World War II veteran and recipient of the Bronze Star Medal whose benefits enabled her to bring her four teenage children from the Philippines. The couple’s son, Nolan, her pride and joy, died of leukemia at age six on Easter Morning. Like every misfortune in her life, she buried her grief in work. Hardly a year would go by when she didn’t acquire a new credential to expand her income opportunities, invest in real estate (at one point she owned three houses), or refurnish her own home.
For escape, Anita loved to spend a weekend in Reno, playing the slots, proud that one hotel kept a room with her name engraved on a plaque on the door. Along with the excitement, playing the slots had the potential to enrich her family nest egg. She trusted fate, up to a point. When misfortune struck, she was quick to reassure, “It’s natural.” When her husband died, Anita became a much sought after home health care worker. As always, she treated her patients as members of her extended family. In 2003, one patient asked her to let him move into her home and become his wife. She cared for him until his death several years later.
“Let me be the one…” Anita would say to those who needed her. As her energy gave out, family and friends stood in long lines waiting to pay their respects, alternating nights in her room so she would not be alone.
Anita is survived by seven sisters and brothers, her beloved four children and 15 grandchildren, as well as numerous nephews and nieces and the children she raised. Her cherished elder son, Noel Tablan, died in 2019. A memorial service is planned. Messages of condolence can be sent to anitapearson319@yahoo. com.