THE VENERABLE Victorian building at 2550 California Street had already seen its share of troubles. A fire a few years ago had done significant damage and left its tenants in temporary quarters during a lengthy top-to-bottom renovation. They finally moved back in a few months ago, but the fire trucks were back again on Sunday afternoon, July 6, when one of the tenants, Karen Pearson, was found dead in her apartment.
The news traveled quickly to her wide network of neighborhood friends, centered around a coffee group that convened early most mornings at Peet’s on Fillmore. Pearson was a regular, quick to say hello and make introductions, or smile at a child, or pat a dog. She was one of those familiar faces often seen around the neighborhood.
Many of her friends gathered at Peet’s for an impromptu memorial a week later, on Sunday, July 13, and remembered her as a kind neighbor and friend, one who sometimes asked the baristas for “just an extra splash” of coffee, as if Peet’s were a local diner.
“Life had dealt Karen some particularly hard blows in the last 10 years,” her friend Fiona Varley wrote in an email to more than 125 of her friends, “from being diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer, being homeless for five years when her building was struck by fire, being unemployed for many years and now finally going through the eviction process.”
Yet friends remembered her as relentlessly upbeat. Several recalled her frequent invitations to events at the Mechanics’ Institute at 57 Post Street, where she was a longtime member and a dedicated volunteer. A more formal memorial will be held there on Friday, August 22, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.