The Way We Were: Jim and Mimi Pearce

The Way We Were: Jim and Mimi Pearce
Mimi and Jim Pearce
Mimi, Josephine “Joey” and Jay Sherman

Mimi, Josephine “Joey” and Jay Sherman

Although Mimi Sherman Pearce was born in White Plains, New York and her husband, Jim Pearce, was born in Sioux St. Marie, Michigan, they both consider San Marco their “hometown.” 

Mimi Pearce lives two houses down from the house on Alexandria Place where she grew up. “I came to live in San Marco as a toddler after my father, Julius Sherman, died at age 36. My mother, Ann Davin Sherman, brought us here so we could be near her brother, Joe Davin. Uncle Joe, of Stockton, Whatley & Davin, was a developer of San Marco,” she said.

An attractive young widow with two children (Jay and Mimi), it wasn’t long before Ann Davin Sherman met and married George Amos Pierce, a widower with two children (Mary Frances and George Pierce, Jr.). For a couple of years, Ann and George Pierce of San Marco had a blended family of four children, and then, Josephine Pierce (now Oetjen) was born and there were five.

Growing up in the 1950s in San Marco, Mimi and her siblings were allowed to ride their bikes or walk anywhere in the neighborhood. “I could walk or bike to the library and to the pool, where I ended up teaching Red Cross swimming lessons,” recalls Mimi. “I could walk to San Marco Square to go bowling, pick up something for my Mother at the A&P or Pic n’ Save. I spent hours in White’s Bookstore and Peterson’s 5 & Dime.”

In what is now known as Alexandria Oaks Park, Mimi flew kites and her brother, Jay, hit golf balls. Mimi and her sister and other neighborhood kids explored the ditch that ran the length of Belote Place, between the houses and the railroad tracks. When the circus came to town, the train stopped there, and the performers lived in tents and trailers. The children were fascinated by them.

There were several parks nearby. Mimi skated and climbed trees in Fletcher Park and loved the scents and sight of the rose garden and camphor trees. River Road Park was for long adventures as it ran from her Uncle Joe’s house all the way up to Hendricks Avenue (then a two-lane road). 

1948: Mary Frances Pierce (now Burton), Mimi Sherman, Ann Davin Sherman Pierce, George Pierce, Jr., and Jay Sherman

1948: Mary Frances Pierce (now Burton), Mimi Sherman, Ann Davin Sherman Pierce, George Pierce, Jr., and Jay Sherman

Mimi loved her Uncle Joe Davin, who had no children of his own, and remembers that he would take her to Guana and the Ponte Vedra Inn & Country Club, where they could ride the waves and, speaking of riding, she still has a photo of her riding a horse with Uncle Joe holding the reins. 

“When they were developing San Marco, my Uncle Joe and his partners, Jim Stockton and Brown Whatley, had to move from their homes in Riverside to San Marco in order to show what a great place it was to live,” recalled Mimi. “Uncle Joe also had street-naming parties and Alexandria Street was named after a friend of his. Whatley Park, across from our house now, was named after Uncle Joe’s partner, Brown Whatley.” 

Parks, in fact, have played a large role in the lives of Jim and Mimi Pearce. 

“Jim and I were married at the beautiful Montrose Park in Washington, D.C., in 1971,” she said. “And, while he was chief planner for the Division of Recreation and Parks for the State of Florida between 1972 and 1981, Jim set the criteria for the Florida Department of Natural Resources for selecting endangered lands like Big Talbot, the Timucuan Preserve, the Duval Nassau Marshes, St. George Island, Big Cypress Preserve and others. We both have the same passion for parks and preservation.” 

Mimi and Jim Pearce also share a passion for preservation of Florida’s flora and fauna on canvas as each of them are accomplished artists who began painting long before they met. 

Jim was Mimi’s brother’s roommate at the U.S. Naval Academy when she was still in high school at Bishop Kenny. Jim was serving in the Navy in Vietnam earning a Bronze Star when Mimi was earning a B.A. in English at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. It wasn’t until Jim was home-ported at Mayport aboard the Destroyer, U.S. Tattnall, that he paid a courtesy visit to the mother of his former Naval Academy roommate and found that her attractive young daughter was at home, too. “He took both of us to dinner on the ship!” declared Mimi.  “And so began our courtship.”

Pearce family with Buddy the dog, 1990s

Pearce family with Buddy the dog, 1990s

At the time, Mimi was working in broadcasting on the Feedback Show with Fred Rebmann at WJCT – Channel 7. She worked in various broadcasting and public relations jobs, including being on the staff of Florida Congressman Charles E. Bennett in Washington, D.C.  Jim was working on his Master’s in Recreation Resource Management at Michigan State University when they were married in Washington, D.C. and in 1972, the young marrieds moved back to Florida.

Their son, Oliver, was born in 1974, and then their daughter, Annie, in 1976, and then 12 years later, in 1987, Mimi gave birth to their son, Cody. “All three of our kids are graduates of Bishop Kenny,” said Mimi. “The boys graduated from Florida State and Annie graduated from the University of Florida.” 

Oliver and Cody Pearce are both in show business in Los Angeles, Oliver as director of post-production for Nickelodeon and Cody a producer for ABC Mouse. Annie stayed in Jacksonville and is in educational sales.

After years of working with the State, Jim went into real estate development with Koger Properties, and then worked with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, earning a Master’s in Health Services Administration from Central Michigan University in 1995, and finally retiring in 2003.  In the meantime, Mimi emulated her Uncle Joe Davin and kept her hand in as a Florida Real Estate Broker/Sales Associate. “I’m still a licensed realtor,” she noted, “specializing in San Marco properties, but now devoting most of my time to my art.”

Aw, art…throughout both their lives, art has been a continuing theme that has just in the past decade come to the forefront for Jim and Mimi Pearce.

“Back in college, there was a photo in the school paper of me painting ‘what appeared to be’ my self-portrait. I’ve since done several self-portraits, but I think that’s still my favorite,” laughed Mimi, pointing out the original on her kitchen wall. 

Mimi’s college self-portrait

Mimi’s college self-portrait

The Pearce home on Alexandria Place is filled with their art, which covers nearly every wall in every room. Jim, who formerly served as first vice president of the Jacksonville Watercolor Society, began painting at a young age and, during his tour of duty in Vietnam, painted some remarkable scenes he titled “Delta Dawn” and “Delta Dusk.” Jim and Mimi are members of the St. Augustine Art Association, the First Coast Plein Aire Artists, and the Jacksonville Art Guild. 

“We approach our art in totally different ways,” said Mimi, describing herself as a free spirit who enjoys the process of applying “juicy oil paint to paper, panel or canvas with palette knives, finger and brush.” Mimi’s paintings reflect that joy and free spirit that she describes.  An example is “Lavender Fields,” a scene she painted because lavender is one of her favorite scents. 

Jim, who paints “to capture and preserve the enduring beauty and strength of Florida’s fragile biological, natural, historical and cultural treasures,” uses watercolors as his primary medium. As he said, “it is liquid, lasting and immediate.” 

Their art is exhibited in The Vault at 1930 and the Dancing Elephant in San Marco, and at the Jacksonville International Airport as well as in private collections. “We actually live in our studio,” Mimi said, adding that each of them enjoys plein aire painting as well…and they often travel to the parks and waterways of North Florida and Georgia. For instance, Jim’s dramatic painting titled “Generations” was painted at Fort Clinch State Park. The storm-weathered, gnarled tree is the Northernmost Red Cedar in Florida.

Like their art, Jim and Mimi Pearce are different, yet complementary. Mimi is an extrovert, outgoing and always seeking serendipity while Jim is reserved and prefers to commune quietly with nature. After 47 years of marriage, Mimi has decided that they are salt and sugar…a delicious combination! 

Susan D. Brandenburg
Resident Community News

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