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From studying the back to giving back

From studying the back to giving back

Richard PearceWhen Cam Pearce conjures up memories of his father Richard, he sees contrast – a man who was both serious and humorous. It’s a fitting description for an accomplished researcher who had a knack for a well-played pun. 

Richard Pearce, affectionately known as Dick, passed away at age 98 in June 2022. In his Will, he left a generous gift of over $200,000 to Arthritis Society Canada, which supported his research with funding in the 1970s.  

A pathology professor at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Dick focused his research on how parts of the skin change with aging, and later expanded his scope to include components of spinal disks. He remained appreciative of Arthritis Society Canada’s funding his entire life. 

“For researchers, that’s always the issue: ‘How do I get my work funded?’ Money isn’t handed out all the time,” says Cam. “My dad was quite grateful to Arthritis Society Canada – that’s what crystallized it for him. He wanted to leave something to show his gratitude. 

“I wasn’t at all surprised that my dad left a generous gift to Arthritis Society Canada in his Will,” Cam adds. “He talked about how important charity was to him.” 

The meaning of legacy 

Leaving a gift in Will ensures one’s generosity can be extended beyond their lifetime and has a lasting impact on a cause close to their heart. 

“When someone leaves us a gift in their Will, it shows how important and valued we are, or were, to them,” says Liesl Drayton, Director, Planned Giving, Arthritis Society Canada. “Richard’s incredible support is deeply appreciated, and it will have far-reaching benefits for years to come.” 

Dick, who developed arthritis himself later in life, was generous during his lifetime as well, donating $130,000 to Arthritis Society Canada over 30 years. In keeping with his wishes, this support went exclusively toward cure-focused research. 

Through the trust and generosity of donors like Dick, gifts in Will have helped Arthritis Society Canada invest more than $230 million in research projects since its founding, including $6.2 million in 2022-23. These projects have led to breakthroughs in the diagnosis, treatment and care of people with arthritis. 

Science, streams and sopranos – the person behind the gift 

Richard Pearce in the 1970sBorn in London, Ont., Dick had a passion for science that prompted him to earn a PhD in biochemistry from the University of Western Ontario, with a portion completed at Yale. He had Cam and two other children with his first wife, Susan, who passed away. His second wife, Joyce, was a collaborator on research projects at UBC. This is where he spent the bulk of his career.  

With Joyce, Dick shared a range of interests, including gourmet food, fine wine and Indigenous art. He also found joy in nature. The pair’s North Vancouver home was on a lot blanketed with native plants, and landscaping was denounced in favour of maintaining a natural plant habitat. A stream also cut through the property, an apt feature given the couple’s volunteer work for the North Shore Streamkeepers, an organization focused on protecting and improving streams and waterways. 

Water aside, Cam says it’s the opera that brings memories of his father back in waves. Dick and Joyce had season tickets to the Vancouver Opera. It was a pastime Cam and his wife adopted, purchasing tickets next to Dick and Joyce. With their passing, their seats are now filled with the next generation of the Pearce family.  

“We remember him every time we go,” Cam says. 

Count opera next to comedy when it comes to how Cam recalls his father. He says he’s reminded of Dick when he drops an off-the-cuff pun, as this was one of his father’s habits, especially around the dinner table. 

For those who didn’t know Dick, perhaps it’s his exceptionally thoughtful legacy gift to Arthritis Society Canada – and the benefits it will have on others living with the disease – that will leave an impact. 

If you’d like to get started on your legacy journey or would like further information about leaving a gift in your Will, please reach out to Liesl Drayton, Director, Planned Giving, at