Sunday Age

Friends mourn the death of Sir Eric, a television legend

Author: Sue Hewitt
Date: 12/04/1997
Words: 650
          Publication: The Sunday Age
Section: NEWS
Page: 9
HIS silver hair and his voice of gold may have been his trademarks but the late Sir Eric Pearce will be remembered for far more, say his friends.

Known as the father of three generations of television viewers, he was credible, caring and kind; a man who felt like family to those who nightly invited him into their homes via the airwaves.

Sir Eric, who died in his sleep at the age of 92 in a Malvern nursing home in the early hours yesterday, was a simple man. He attended church every Sunday at 8am until recent years of ill health saw him move to the home.

Sir Eric's minister, Archdeacon Philip Newman, will conduct a funeral service on Wednesday at St John's Anglican church - the old bluestone church on the hill in Clendon Road, Toorak, where Sir Eric worshipped.

"What you saw is what you got; he was a man of integrity, someone of the old school. There were all sorts of charities he was involved in; he was giving of time," Mr Newman said yesterday.

The Nine Network's Pete Smith, who saw Sir Eric the day before he died, said yesterday: "We have all lost something with his passing but I have lost a mate, a best mate."

Mr Smith said his fondest memory of the man who read the Nine Network's news for 33 years was of walking across the wall of a dam with him.

"People did a double-take even though he had not been on television for some years. You see, he was part of the golden age of television, when you became part of everybody's family," he said.

"They would see you and expect you to know them because you were in their homes every night."

Always the gentleman, he would slap the backs of men and kiss the cheeks of women but one woman caught him out. Rosemary Margan used to be the station's weather-girl and she recalled the New Year's Day broadcast in 1970.

Mr Pearce had been awarded an OBE in the Queen's honors list and Ms Margan crept up to him while he was reading the news and planted an impromptu kiss on his cheek. Being the professional he was, he said "thank you", looked over his half-rim glasses at the camera and continued reading.

In 1979, he was knighted for his contribution to television and charities, including Yooralla and several hospitals.

The young man from Hampshire, England, had come a long way since immigrating to Australia in 1938 and landing a job with a radio station, then continuing as a radio announcer until television arrived in 1956.

The former Victorian premier, Mr John Cain, recalled Sir Eric as a family friend whose work in radio and television provided a role model for him as a teenager.

The first night of the Seven Network's broadcast saw Mr Pearce introduce the then premier, Sir Henry Bolte, to launch the station, then read the first news service.

He moved on to the Nine Network the following year and had been there - in one form or another - until four years ago.

The Nine Network's news director, Mr John Sorrell, arranged Sir Eric's "comeback" three years after the newsreader retired in 1973, aged 68. He retired again in 1979, only to be appointed the station's director of community affairs, a position he held until 1993.

Sir Eric's wife, Betty, died more than a decade ago; he had no children.

HERE IS THE NEWS

The philosophy of Sir Eric Pearce

"The way you use your voice, the way you express yourself...that does not mean using tremendously big words, nor does it mean speaking in a very elocutionary style, but it means that what you say has got to be what you believe. I would not have a part in anything that was likely to offend the susceptibilities of religious people."

 
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