Pearle J. Bechtel

Honored by:Maria M. Poeppelmeier
Brick location:A:7  map

PEARLE JILLSON BECHTEL was born April 17, 1887 in Stevensville, Michigan to Calvin and Jennie Marie (Johnson) Jillson. She graduated from Michigan State College, Ypsilanti, Michigan with a dual emphasis in art and education. A woman with an independent streak and a sense of adventure, she taught in public schools in the early 1900s from one side of the country to the other, in the lumber town of Aberdeen, Washington to Vineland, New Jersey and the iron ore mining center of Hibbing, Minnesota. In 1908 she considered moving beyond the continental US to teach in Puerto Rico. Apparently crossing that much water was too daring for this mid-westerner as her letters show she declined the position.

While teaching in Hibbing, Pearle met a young chemist working for U.S. Steel, Esler Ray Bechtel. They were married August 26, 1914 in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Pearle and Ray lived in Hibbing, Minnesota until 1945 when they moved to Duluth, Minnesota. They had two children, Esler Ray and Barbara Pearle.

Painting was Pearle’s love, her raison d’être. She studied with Frances Price Young, formerly of the University of Iowa Art School; Anson K. Cross of Columbia University; Boothbay Harber Art School Maine; and David Ericson of Duluth, Minnesota. She was one of the founders of the Hibbing Art Center and maintained a studio in Hibbing. Her art work has been shown throughout the United States. Most of Pearle's paintings now reside in the homes of her children and grandchildren and have influenced them all in their own artistic endeavors.

Her ability to record her world and to use it to make her environment her home has been transmitted to us all. The decorative arts strongly influenced her work. Her painting portrayed landscapes and florals and an occasional still life and portrait; typically her paintings were watercolors and oils. She believed her works reflect this, that familiar scenes and landscapes (no matter the scope) were worthy of painting (hence were art), thus worthy of hanging in one's home. While museum's may be one mark of an artist's success, to Pearle the home was where art was used. To her "art the product" and "art the process" needed to be accessible--both to the artist and the viewer. Her paintings aimed at being truthful to the subject reflected her garden, her walkway, the view from her bedroom window, and landscapes from her various travel adventures. As an artist, Pearle recorded her history and that of her family in addition to accomplishing (perhaps only what she was hoping to do) to decorating her home and that of her family and friends.

In 1958 Pearle and Ray retired to St. Petersburg, Florida and came to Ames in 1971 to live near their daughter, Barbara Bechtel McMartin. Ray died in 1977 and Pearle died March 6, 1981, leaving to her family a legacy of an appreciation for the arts, education, and a love for art in the everyday.