Steven Duain Pearson, 64, of Madison, Alabama, passed away peacefully at his home on June 12, 2023.
Steve was born in Huntsville, Alabama on April 19, 1959, to Pete and Sue Pearson. His family attended Pineview Baptist Church when it was located on the corner of Winchester and Blue Springs Roads. He worked at the Winn Dixie on Governors Drive for several years as a bagger, stocker, and cashier. He was a proud Johnson Jaguar alum, graduating from J.O. Johnson High School in 1977. Steve went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from University of Alabama at Huntsville (UAH) in 1981, later finishing his master’s degree in engineering management from Florida Institute of Technology in 1986.
Steve’s 37-year career with NASA began as an undergrad co-op in March of 1979. Steve joined the agency full-time as an electrical engineer in the fall of 1981 and became the team lead for the Electromagnetic Compatibility and Lightning Safety Protection Team in 1991. He was named branch chief for the Electromagnetics and Aerospace Environments Branch in 1993 and program manager of NASA’s Space Environments and Effects (SEE) program in 1995-an effort that identified effects from the harsh environments of space, and development of ways to control or alleviate the problems. In 1999, Steve began serving as the manager of the Engineering Technology and Development Office and chief technologist in the Engineering Directorate. Steve was later named the deputy manager of the Avionics Department in the Engineering Directorate at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in 2003. He was also appointed to the federal government’s Senior Executive Service (SES)-the personnel system that covers most of the top managerial, supervisory and policy positions in the executive branch of the federal government. Steve and his team members worked on research, design, development, testing, and verification of advanced flight and ground support avionics systems which included all of the electrical and electronic hardware and software necessary for avionics architectures and their associated flight and ground support. Beginning in 2004 and for the next ten years, Steve served as Department Director of the Space Systems Department which supported projects such as the Space Shuttle Program, the Fast and Affordable Science and Technology Satellite (FASTSAT-HSV01) and development of the Space Launch System (SLS) Launch Vehicle. Prior to Steve’s retirement from NASA in 2016, he served as the Deputy Director of the Safety & Mission Assurance Directorate at MSFC, assuring safety and mission assurance for the full range of center programs, projects, and institutional services. From 2016 until weeks before his death, Steve was the Sole Proprietor of Pearson Aerospace Solutions where he supported the Marshall Integrated Programmatic Support Services (MIPSS) through the MTS/Emerald City Initiatives Team which directly supported the Integrated Avionics & Software and Systems Engineering efforts in the SLS program. Steve was a second-generation NASA employee. His father, Pete, was a mechanical engineering technician at Marshall Center during the Apollo and Skylab era.
Steve met his high school sweetheart, Jane Johnson, while working at Winn Dixie. Jane would volunteer to do the grocery shopping for her mother so she could drive to visit friends who worked with Steve and would conveniently forget items on the list as an excuse for a return visit. Throughout their courtship, Steve was known to visit his mother who worked as a floral designer at Mitchell’s Florist and retrieve withered flowers that were thrown in the trash that he would rearrange and wrap in tissue paper prior to gifting them to Jane; it was after they were married that Jane learned of Steve’s dumpster-diving bouquets that her mother had suspected of him the entire time they were dating. Steve and Jane were married on March 7, 1981 at Hillsboro Heights Baptist Church. They welcomed their first child, Amber Michelle, in October of 1983. In 1984, Steve & Jane moved from Princess Street in North Huntsville to a ten-acre farm in Harvest where his father Pete, Uncle Virgil, and himself built the home Steve and Jane designed. In January of 1986, they welcomed their son, Jason Talmage, named after Steve’s dad, which completed their family. After Steve and Jane became empty nesters, they sold their home of 37 years and moved to their current home overlooking Blue Lake in Madison in 2021. Prior to his death, Steve requested to return home with Jane by his side so he could spend his final days in his happy place with his favorite person of 45 years, gazing from his bedroom window at the duck and geese families swimming in the pond, the Blue Heron standing on the edge of the water, and the Red Cardinal perched on a branch near his window which holds a special meaning for the couple. Steve was a member of Mount Zion Baptist church for over 30 years where during that time he faithfully served as a deacon, Discipleship Training Director, member of the Finance and Security teams, Sound System Technician, and Singles Ministry Leader.
Steve loved traveling with his wife exploring the beaches of the Gulf Coast, to the islands of Hawaii, and the incredible mountain ranges of Alaska. For several years they spent the month of December in Destin, FL enjoyingthe oceanfront view and visits from family, but mostly to complete their Christmas shopping list at the outlet malls since Steve would never be caught paying full price for any of his purchases. He enjoyed couponing, bargain hunting, day old bakeries, senior citizen discounts, early bird specials, finding the closest handicap parking spot, and meal planning for the entire day at least 24 hours in advance. His family treasured the active role he took in the lives of his granddaughters, in whom he took immense pride. He was their number one fan in any endeavor, whether school, church, competitive cheer, or dance. On occasion, his Disney-fanatic daughter and granddaughters would convince him to travel down Main Street USA, where he would happily tag along wearing his matching Disney shirts and Mouse ears.
Steve will be remembered by many as a sweets connoisseur for his expert taste-testing of key lime pie, bread pudding, and vanilla milkshakes; his timeless fashion trend of Hawaiian print shirts will be reminisced when seen in thrift stores, on cruise ships, or worn on tacky tourist character days; his methodical trading and selling of fantasy league baseball players with several successful seasons ending in the coveted shower of Yoo-hoo poured over him by his friends that had a not-so-successful season will be an amusing recollection any time we see the chocolate-flavored drink in a gas station or grocery store; his mathematical ability to instantly calculate percentage of sale prices, taxes, and tips in his head while shopping or dining will be missed when having to use a calculator or app instead; his award-winning designs of wooden RA Racecars he “assisted” his son with will be imitated by young Royal Ambassadors & Boy Scouts for years to come; and we will shake our heads when reading articles on the national shortage of umpires and referees, recalling Coach Pearson’s unique flair for “educating” sports officials on their poor judgement calls (that typically involved allegations of impaired vision) when he coached youth sports for over a decade.
Steve is survived by his wife, Jane Johnson Pearson; his daughter, Amber (Joey) Bunch and son, Jason Pearson; granddaughters, Kaitlyn and Kinsley Bunch; his father, Pete Pearson; sisters, Beverly Moon and Diane Pearson; Nephews, Will (Lori) Moon and Chris Moon; and Great-Nephew and Niece, Nick and Cheyanne Moon. He is preceded in death by his mother, Sue Pearson and brother-in-law, Greg Moon.
A celebration of Steve’s life will be held on Friday, June 16, 2023 at Mount Zion Baptist Church, 228 Mount Zion Road Huntsville, AL 35806. Visitation will begin at 1:00pm, and the Celebration of Life Service will begin at 3:00pm. The gravesite committal will follow at Mount Zion Baptist Church Cemetery.