The Amazing Life and Adventures of Poppa Neutrino

Updated on July 29, 2018
Readmikenow profile image

Readmikenow enjoys writing about unique and interesting people. He likes to learn about individuals who live or have lived unusual lives.

David Pearlman AKA Poppa Neutrino
David Pearlman AKA Poppa Neutrino

William David Pearlman was born on October 15, 1933, in Fresno, California. He later adopted the name Poppa Neutrino. His name change occurred at the age of 52 when he survived a serious illness from a dog bite. Neutrino's many adventures have been written about in books and shown in documentaries. He told people his desire for adventure started when he was twelve years old. Neutrino saw a documentary about the Australian aborigines. In it, he saw how these people would burn their homes and all their material possessions. They would walk away from this situation with no clothes or material possessions to start a new life. He came to believe people were trapped by the idea of a job and rent. Neutrino built rafts and made them his home. They were constructed from discarded materials and placed on public waterways and other types of free space. He traveled around the world. He and his family supported themselves by being street musicians.

Early Years

Poppa Neutrino's father was named Louis Pearlman. Before Neutrino was born, his father left him and his mother to be in the Merchant Marines. His mother got remarried, and he took the name of his stepfather. When he found out about his birth father, he changed his name back. His mother liked to gamble. They would live in a variety of cheap hotels and Neutrino claims he attended over 40 different schools. When he was 15 years old, Neutrino lied about his age and joined the Army. He tried to get out of the Army because he was underage. His mother told Neutrino's commanding officer her son was actually 18. When he got out of the Army, Neutrino hitchhiked along Route 66. He even spent time studying at a Baptist seminary in Texas. He became a preacher and spent time in San Francisco. Neutrino then found the First Church of Fulfillment when he lived in New York. After doing this, he sold life insurance for a company in New Mexico. Neutrino also worked as a reporter for a San Francisco newspaper as well as formed a group of wandering sign painters who called themselves the Salvation Navy.

The Flying Neutrinos
The Flying Neutrinos

Flying Neutrinos

Betsy Terrell was Poppa Neutrino's fourth wife. With her, he formed a jazz and rhythm and blues band called the Flying Neutrinos during the 1980s. All of them were self-taught musicians and members of the family. They performed on the streets around the world. The Flying Neutrinos were a regular feature with a circus in Mexico for a period of time. The group of five children and four adults became good at playing their music in the street. During a period of 30 days in New York City, the group was able to make over $10,000 playing at various places in the subway system. Two of his children are currently involved with music as professionals. Ingrid Lucia is a well-known singer in the New Orleans area. Todd Londagin is part of a popular swing band in New York.

Wife Betsy coming ashore
Wife Betsy coming ashore

Raft Builder

Poppa Neutrino had a love of building rafts. One of his children likes to share a story of how he built a raft in a New York City apartment where he lived. Once it was completed, he was unable to get it out of the apartment because it was too large. He was able to convert an abandoned barge into a paddle-wheel houseboat. It was called Town Hall. This became a traveling home for the Flying Neutrinos band. In August 1991, this raft was used to move the family from Massachusetts to New York City. It was eventually anchored on the Hudson River in Manhattan at Pier 25. On May 8, 2000, Town Hall was destroyed by the Hudson River Park Trust.

Son of Town Hall. Raft Poppa Neutrino and crew sailed across the Atlantic Ocean.
Son of Town Hall. Raft Poppa Neutrino and crew sailed across the Atlantic Ocean.

Documentary of Poppa Neutrino crossing the Atlantic Ocean

Crossing the Atlantic Ocean

Poppa Neutrino, friends and family started to construct a new raft that would be known as Son of Town Hall. It was constructed from two-part poured foam, as well as recycled foam chunks. It had a lot of recycled plywood and tarp in the walls and top deck. The majority of the rope was used to lash the plywood pieced to the 2 x 4 framing. The logs and foam of the hull itself were held together by the poured foam. When they were finished, it was a 51-foot raft that weighed approximately 17 tons. Some people described it as a garden shed on water. Son of Town Hall had four crew members including Poppa Neutrino, his fourth wife Betsy, Ed Garry, Rodger Doncaster as well as three dogs. During their crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, they all survived gale force winds. These gale force winds lasted over 14 hours. The crew was also able to avoid near-collisions with tankers as well as icebergs. The voyage was done in two parts. In the summer of 1997, they spent 41 days at sea sailing their raft from Maine to Newfoundland in Canada. In the summer of 1998, they sailed their raft out of Newfoundland and after spending 60 days at sea, they were able to reach the shores of Ireland. The first person to cross the Atlantic on a raft was a Canadian named Henri Beaudout. He did this in 1956. Poppa Neutrino and his crew were the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean on a raft made from discarded items found on the streets of a city.

The Sea Owl under construction in Vermont.
The Sea Owl under construction in Vermont.

Circumnavigate the Globe

Poppa Neutrino moved to Burlington, Vermont in 2008. He planned to build another raft on Lake Champlain and sail it around the world. Neutrino was going to leave Vermont and initially go south to Florida. His new raft was a 37-foot trimaran called “the Sea Owl.” It had a crew of three people and three dogs. The raft had two outboard motors, four cabins as well as a heated pilot house. During its initial voyage in November of 2010, the Sea Owl was driven by a storm into rocks at Thompson's Point in Vermont. The raft was destroyed. Poppa Neutrino and his crew had to be rescued.

Neutrino Clock Offense

Poppa Neutrino developed an offensive football play that involved a system of hand signals based on the face of a clock. It was designed to enable a quarterback to communicate with a receiver as a play was happening. Neutrino approached a number of NFL teams about the play as well as some college football teams. A high school team used his play, and it was a success.

Funeral for Poppa Neutrino in New Orleans
Funeral for Poppa Neutrino in New Orleans


Many people were overwhelmed with how Poppa Neutrino did things. With everything he attempted, there were many people telling him how it was impossible. He is known for his unshakable optimism as well as fearlessness. This unsettled many people. Others admired his ability to be himself no matter what the situation. On January 23, 2011, Poppa Neutrino died of heart failure in a New Orleans, Louisiana Hospital. According to his daughter Jessica Terrell, he died as he lived. He had plans for another boat trip. This time it would be a voyage to Cuba. Poppa Neutrino also had a novel in progress and a total of $4.44 left in his bank account.

Award winning documentary about the life of Poppa Neutrino


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    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago

      Rafini, thanks. Yeah, I seriously admire the ability of Poppa Neutrino to live life on his own terms.

    • Rafini profile image


      2 years ago from Somewhere I can't get away from

      What an interesting nomadic lifestyle! I've considered something similar (along the lines of The Wild Thornberries - buying a motorhome & hitting the road, only stopping to work when money is needed for gas & supplies) but... Maybe in retirement! lol

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago

      Larry, my life as well. So many of us just live the lives we are told to live. This guy was very different.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      2 years ago from Oklahoma

      My life could use some adventure:-)

      Fascinating read.

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago

      Coffeequeen, thanks! He is amazing. I also recommending watching the documentaries. He's for real.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      2 years ago from Norfolk, England

      That was really interesting to read. I've never heard of him before. He certainly sounds a very interesting man!

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago

      Mactavers, thanks. I think he led an incredible life consisting of breaking all society's rules and succeeding.

    • mactavers profile image


      2 years ago

      He sounds like a combination of Peter Pan and Huckleberry Finn. Thanks for sharing.


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