He might not want attention, but he's getting it all the same

CHESTER -- Around 5 a.m. today, Buddy Pearson plans to get out of bed at the mill hill home on Robbins Circle where he's lived his entire life.

Breakfast is optional, but the 62-year-old Chester native will almost certainly throw on a camouflage baseball cap and report to his garage by 6 a.m., building trailers and restoring classic cars.

To someone who has spent a lifetime in maintenance, this early routine can mean only one thing -- retirement.

"I'm up at 5 o'clock every morning anyway," he said. "Been doing it for a long time. No need to change it."

Pearson retired from his job as the county's maintenance supervisor last month after 20 years toiling in every project imaginable.

"Electrical, plumbing, carpenter, whatever it was," he said. "Work don't bother me. It don't matter if it's hard or easy or whatever."

That labor will be rewarded this afternoon when Pearson is honored by the local Rotary club for his years of service to the county. The recognition is for those who work the jobs that don't typically receive recognition.

If anyone fits that description, it's Pearson. The guy shuns the spotlight as though someone were chasing him. County Supervisor Carlisle Roddey will have an easier time shifting the county offices out of downtown than he will bringing Pearson to get an award today.

"He knows how I am about that," Pearson said.

Roddey knows, but he said the guy he hired to take care of all the county's facilities 20 years ago deserves this honor.

"Few and far between" is how he describes the longtime maintenance man.

Pearson started working in the mills when he was 16. His parents also worked there. He spent years in maintenance before Roddey hired him in 1987. Then he worked two jobs.

Although Pearson won't brag, his friends and family are more than happy to talk for him.

They'll gush about the man who spent 10 years working five days a week for the county and 12-hour weekend shifts at the Katherine Plant. They'll rave about the guy with a minimal education who became such a reliable source for fix-it information that the county gave him a phone when he retired so he could be reached if there's a question. They also talk about a guy who found time to serve as captain of a rescue squad in between his other jobs.

"That's just the kind of man he was," said Pearson's daughter, Rhonda "Squeaky" Ledbetter. "He made time. Sometimes, I wondered about how there could be so many hours in a day."

She said most of her father's four children have worked two jobs at some point. Still, she marvels at how he did so much.

"You have to work hard," she said. "That's just part of who he is, and that's what he's taught every one of his children."

"That's a good man," said Ed Canty, who worked for Pearson for nearly two years. "Stays to himself. Knows a little bit about everything, too."

If there was a job to do, Canty said Pearson didn't dictate. He worked alongside his employees.

"His hands was on it just as well as ours," he said. "He'd never say anything about himself. If he'd do something, we'd brag about him. He'd laugh and go about his business."

David Minors knew Pearson through his work with county recreation.

"Seems like Buddy knew how to do anything," he said. "Whether it was grading, plumbing, electrical or whatever. ... We just wish he'd come on back."

After suffering several heart attacks, Pearson finally stepped down because of his health and because 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren want to visit him.

But the sage serviceman isn't completely retired. He's willing to answer questions and he even stopped by the shop Monday morning just to see what his former colleagues were up to.

Of course, he's also got a garage, a 1937 Ford truck and a 1939 Pontiac that beckon every day. However, he wishes he was still punching the county's clock.

"I miss it," he said.