by Dennis Dalman
A foundation has been established to honor the memory of Tom Bearson, a Sartell resident who was murdered while attending North Dakota State University in his freshman year last fall – a murder that remains unsolved.
Family, friends and supporters started the foundation, called simply the Tom Bearson Foundation. Its goal is to raise funds for four purposes: to extend gymnasium playing spaces, to enhance and expand local youth basketball programs, to give four scholarships (two for boys, two for girls) to Sartell High School basketball players, and to promote safety for college campuses on and off campuses.
All of those purposes tie in perfectly to honor a young man who loved basketball ever since he was a toddler and whose life ended tragically, senselessly through an act of violence near or on his college campus.
There are 11 members on the foundation board, with Tom Bearson’s father Greg as founder and president. Tom’s mother, Deb, is co-founder and vice president and one of the board members is Tom’s only other sibling, his sister, Maddie, who is two years older than Tom.
There is a website for the foundation: www.tombearson.org.
On the website, there are many memories, tributes, photos and videos of Tom Bearson’s short but very active and satisfying life. There are photos of him as a big-blue-eyed boy having fun with sister Maddie, parents, relatives and friends. There is a comical video of Tom and friends as teenagers singing their hearts out to a song by Queen. Throughout most of the photos and videos can be seen Bearson’s ever-present companion – his basketball. His love for that sport is palpable in all the images, including videos of his superb playing for the Sartell Sabres. In his high-school years, he chalked up 1,000 career points in the sport.
The portrait that emerges from the website is of an energetic young man brimming with humor and fun who made people around him feel good about living. The happily contagious sense of fun (and more than a few hijinks) is evident in every photo, every video, every written tribute to him.
The following tribute was written by Bearson’s family:
“He had a passion for sports and a fantastic sense of humor and fun. He will always be on our minds and never forgotten. We know he is in a better place. We know he is happy, safe, healthy, pain-free, full of energy, free of responsibilities, and he is with God in a place where he has all the time in the world to do the things he loves . . . We’re lucky and blessed to have chosen Sartell to call home for the past 20 years, and we shall always be humbled and grateful for the support we have received from so many people. This support has warmed our hearts and provided some much-needed strength. It’s our turn to give back of the love and compassion we received generously from so many people.”
The Tom Bearson Foundation will host a fundraising golf event with dinner, music and social hour Aug. 22 at Blackberry Ridge Golf Course. For more information or to register, go to the website. Registrations must be made by July 24.
The following are more detailed descriptions of each of the four goals of the Tom Bearson Foundation:
As a community, many people believe Sartell is in need of more gym space for a wide range of sports activities for boys and girls and people of all ages. Sartell is currently in the process of determining the best way to utilize limited resources and space to address these needs and a community center is in the planning stages. We support this endeavor and are committed to help provide funding to accomplish this goal with the intent to purchase the naming rights to the community-center gymnasium.
We will work on finding new and creative ideas or expand current successful programs to increase interest and participation for our youngsters while focusing on skill development. It’s our intention to help provide funding for a number of different boys’ and girls’ programs.
The purpose of these scholarships is to recognize scholastic and athletic achievement for Sartell High School varsity girls and boys basketball players. We want to encourage student athletes to continue their studies while also providing financial assistance. We will provide four scholarships – two senior high-school male players and two senior high-school female players.
College-student safety remains a large issue on many college campuses. We will work aggressively to financially support partners and organizations that work to promote safe behavior, safety awareness and safety-focused tools.
After graduating from high school, Tom Bearson decided to enter the nursing studies program at North Dakota State University in Fargo.
Late one night at about 4 a.m. in September 2014, Bearson, who had been visiting friends at an off-campus house, walked down the street and was reported missing the next day.
A massive search began to locate him, with no luck. Three days later, his body was found lying in a patch of grass near an RV-business lot in neighboring Moorhead. The cause of death was not released, but officials said it was definitely the result of “homicidal violence.”
One of Bearson’s shoes (a Nike tennis shoe size 9-1/2) was missing, along with a silver-colored cell phone. Investigators in the case are still hoping those items will turn up to lead to other clues that could break the case.
After it was learned Bearson’s body had been found, a memorial service for him was held at St. Francis Xavier Church in Sartell, attended by family, relatives, friends, fellow students and even strangers. It was clear from the testimonials at the service that Tom had had a huge, positive, lasting impact on all the people who knew him.