A leader, athlete, naturalist, consummate volunteer, conservationist and friend to many, J.W. Pieper passed away October 8, 2021. J.W. was born during the Great Depression, the day after Christmas 1935, the firstborn of Walter and Ida Helen Pieper, in DeWitt County, Texas. He grew up with his four siblings on a small ranch outside of Cuero.
He rode a horse to Ratcliffe School, a one-room schoolhouse, for eight years where his leadership skills were formed helping younger children with their reading, writing, spelling and arithmetic.
J.W. graduated from Cuero High School where he excelled in academics and sports, lettering in football, basketball, baseball and track all four years. He was president of the student body and represented DeWitt County at Boys State.
With a Navy ROTC scholarship, he attended the University of Texas at Austin, majoring in engineering and business, and was the first of his family to attend college. He helped organize the Crow’s Nest, a Navy co-op, where he served as president and led the Navy athletic teams to several championships. J.W.’s campus involvement led to his selection to the Silver Spurs, where he served as president.
As an executive officer of UT Navy midshipmen, he sailed from the Atlantic around the Horn to the Pacific for his senior training cruise aboard the USS Ranger, the largest carrier in the fleet. During his last year at UT he was selected to the Friar Society, an honorary organization.
Upon graduation, J.W. was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy and assigned to the newest guided missile cruiser in the Pacific, the USS Oklahoma City. The ship, after testing in the Pacific Missile Range off California, sailed to Hawaii and Japan in 1961, and assumed the duties of flagship for the commander of the Seventh Fleet in the Western Pacific.
On December 7, 1961, J.W. served as officer of the deck as they sailed into Pearl Harbor at daybreak, 20 years to the hour after the historic bombing of the Navy base. He maintained friendships with many of the ship’s officers for the rest of his life.
After three years in the Navy, J.W. moved to Houston and joined the marketing team of IBM. In 1964, the love of his life, Jan Smith, joined the IBM Houston office, and, after a short engagement, they were married on her birthday and Valentine’s Day, 1965. They moved to his new sales territory in Galveston, where their first child, Mauri, was born.
Soon after her birth, J.W. joined Frost Bank in San Antonio for the beginning of a 35-year banking career. In that city their son, John, was born three years later. J.W. then joined First City National Bank and was in Houston for 13 years before transferring back to San Antonio. His career included senior and executive management of the bank’s data processing, operations services, and retail banking divisions.
With the emergence of electronic banking, he was a volunteer co-founder and president of the Southwest Automated Clearing House, serving banks in Texas and surrounding states. He became active in the American Bankers Association and worked closely with Federal Reserve senior operations staffs throughout the U.S.
Upon retirement, he and Jan moved to the Boerne area, and he immediately began volunteering to teach children and adults about nature and the natural world. J.W. was an avid outdoorsman with appreciation for nature in all respects. He became a Texas Master Naturalist, serving as treasurer and president of the Alamo Area Chapter. He was also a founder and treasurer of the Gorge Preservation Society and led hikes through the newly formed protected space below Canyon Lake Dam. J.W. served on the Friends of Guadalupe River State Park board and led hikes in Honey Creek State Natural Area for 18 years. He volunteered at the Cibolo Nature Center for 19 years and established a personal working relationship with the management and staff.
J.W. was co-founder of the Bergheim Volunteer Fire Department and served as treasurer for its first 10 years. He was invited to become a trustee of the Cibolo Preserve in 2013 by his good friend, Bill Lende, and served that organization as manager of research, treasurer and manager of operations. He also served his beloved University of Texas as chair of the Advisory Council for the Texas Union, and the Advisory Council of the University’s Rec Sports organization as a charter member.
For 35 years, J.W. officiated high school football in San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and throughout Texas as a member of the Southwest Football Officials Association. He enjoyed competing in the Senior Games from his 50s to his 80s both in track meets and in golf events.
J.W. was a sinner saved by the grace of God. He loved his neighbor as himself, and was a friend and servant to his family, friends, business associates and people he hardly knew. No one was a stranger to J.W., and he quietly served others. He cherished the many friendships developed in each stage of life and loved staying in touch with them.
He is predeceased by his parents and his brother, Charles. He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Jan Smith Pieper; daughter Mauri Pieper (Chip) Tardy and son, John (Sara Jane) Pieper; grandchildren Hollis Tardy (Will) Dyson, James Tardy, Owen Pieper and Charlie Pieper; and his sisters, Marilyn, Beverly and D’Ette; and many nieces and nephews and their children.
A celebration of life will be conducted at First United Methodist Boerne, 205 James St., on Friday, October 15, 2021, at 1:30 pm, with a reception to follow.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the Bergheim Volunteer Fire Department (824-826 Highway 46, Boerne, TX 78006) and the Cibolo Nature Center (140 City Park Road, Boerne, TX 78006).
To leave condolences for the family and to view a video of J.W.’s life, please visit www.ebensberger-fisher.com. Arrangements with Ebensberger-Fisher Funeral Home of Boerne.