Eighteen days after the love of his life went to be with Jesus, Walter Lee Pierce knew that he had lived long enough without her. He peacefully joined her on April 20, 2021.
Visitation will be 3 – 5 p.m., Sunday, April 25th at Sunset Memorial Funeral Home; Odessa, TX.
Funeral services will the held 10 a.m., Monday, April 26th at Sunset Memorial Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Monument Gardens of Sunset Memorial.
Walter was born on February 16, 1927 in Eastland, Texas to the late Jim Russell and Lucy Pierce.
He is survived by his son, Richard and wife Sharon of Midland, TX; daughter Susan and husband Dennis of Mesa, AZ; granddaughter Tracy Renton (Neil) of Midland, grandson Timothy Sullivan (Audrey) of Mesa, AZ; grandson Lee Pierce (Terra) of Midland; grandson Steven Sullivan (Marenda) of San Tan Valley, AZ. He is also survived by great-grandchildren, Brandon Renton, Rebekah Renton, Hudson Sullivan, Madison Sullivan, Savannah Sullivan, Korie Pierce and Weston Pierce. Walter leaves behind a host of nieces and nephews as well as a multitude of friends. He is pre-deceased by his loving wife of 71 years, Billie Ruth Pierce and brothers, Dick, Kit, Pete, Jake, Pat, Jack, Bob, & Ernest.
When Walter was about eighteen months old, his dad purchased a farm in the plains area near Littlefield, Texas. Being the baby of nine surviving siblings (all boys), he was often doted on by the entire family. In fact, some would say that he was a bit spoiled. Walt grew up on the farm and went to schools in that area until he left in 1945 to join several of his brothers serving in the military during World War II. The war came to an end within 18 months of his entry into the Army Air Corp. He never left stateside, but had a deep love for his country and was proud that he had been able to serve.
After his discharge from the Army Air Corp, Walt settled in Wink where several of his brothers were. The oil field was booming and he quickly found work. It was there that he met Billie. They began a life-long love affair of over 71 years. They were married in Wink, Texas on August 3, 1949.
Walt was committed to his family – and when he married Billie, her family became his family. He was often considered the patriarch to many of them. They came to him for advice as well as help. He became a part of the volunteer fire department and one of his most devastating experiences was fighting the fire that destroyed Billie's parents' home. Through the years he was a solid pillar of strength to the entire Barnes family.
Shortly after they were married, Walt left Lion Oil Company to begin working for Humble Oil & Refining Company. He was loyal to that employment through several name changes. When he retired in 1986, he had been with Exxon for over 35 years. The family often laughed at his obsessive loyalty to their gas and oil products – often driving miles out of his way to fill up with Exxon fuel or purchase cases of Exxon oil.
Walt built a cute new home in Wink when they married and they lived there until 1959 when the main Humble office was moved to Monahans. At that time, they purchased 15 acres in the country and built a new home there. That was the beginning of many hours of fun, hard work, and much of involvement with Rickey & Susan in their 4-H activities. He worked hard to build nice sturdy pens for their show animals – capons, swine, lambs and steers. Many weeks of vacation were sacrificed by Walt to take them to various livestock shows, from the State Fair in Dallas as far as the El Paso Livestock Expo and of course the more local shows, Odessa & Ward County. He took great pride in seeing his children accomplish their goals in the 4-H program. No one is sure who the most proud when Rickey placed high in El Paso and then won Grand Champion Steer in Ward County – Walt or Rickey.
Walt only completed the 11th grade, but he never stopped learning. He sometimes felt an inferiority regarding his education, so in the 1980's while living in Enid, OK , he began taking high school courses at night – studying hard and earning high grades and a GED.
While employed with Humble, beginning as a roustabout, he applied himself and quickly began to prove his mechanical ability as well as a mind bent toward engineering. He was quickly moved to the Mechanical Department and soon was promoted to supervisor based not only on his mechanical abilities, but also merit. He took great pride in his work ethic. He would spent hours studying a project and then complete it to almost perfection - much to the chagrin and sometimes embarrassment of his college educated peers.
Walt was never afraid to tackle a project – even if he had never done something similar. The pastor in Enid, OK was quite surprised when Walt committed to repairing the refrigerated A/C unit that the church had been unable to afford to have fixed. Thinking that Walt must have worked on something similar, he was quite shocked when Walt showed up at the church with books from the local library explaining the refrigeration process for A/C units. He just wasn't familiar with Walt's thought process. It may have taken him a while to complete the repairs, but that A/C unit worked for many years after. Of course, Walt had an ulterior motive - he was always very hot natured and didn't want to sit in a hot church building in Oklahoma humidity. One of his well-known phrases when asked about a project he was doing was - “this one and one more will make two that I've done.”
Walter loved his pets, often making sure they were well protected from the weather elements. He convinced Billie that it was too cold outside, so he used her dining room table and family room floor to build an elaborate house so Joe-Mac, the cat, would be protected from the elements when they were out of town. People often joked that if one believed in re-incarnation, they would want to come back as one of Walt's pets.
Walter and his many projects were often a source of entertainment for the entire family. Beekeeper, worm farmer, stain glass making, ceramics, just to name a few. He also loved hunting - deer, pheasant, dove, quail, antelope and of course, his prize kill - “Oscar” the elk.
After retiring, Walt again became involved in hobby he had loved many years ago. He purchased a 1966 Mooney aircraft and spent countless hours re-building and preparing it to be an air-worthy plane. He and Billie made several long distance trips together in his pride and joy – California, Utah, Tennessee, Arkansas. It became a much easier trip to visit Rickey and his family in Midland and Billie's mother & siblings in San Angelo. It was truly a sad day when the decision was made that he would not be able to fly again and the Mooney was sold.
Walt supported Billie in whatever endeavor she was currently interested in. That's how he became involved in ceramics. When they both became interested in their family history, together they searched cemeteries, dusty old courthouse basements and even the Mormon genealogy library in Salt Lake City. Together they became quite active in the DRT & SRT (Daughters & Sons of the Republic of Texas). He financed Billie's “book” project and was very proud & excited upon its completion.
One of Walt's most favorite projects was the “farm” and as he later called it, the “ranch.” The “old homeplace” in Littlefield was still in the Pierce family. While still living in Oklahoma he and Billie were able to contact all the necessary relatives for him to buy everyone out. It was an exciting day when he could take full possession. He tried a stint at raising cattle, but not yet retired, circumstances caused him to have to drop that project for a while. Several years after retirement, he got the itch to once again raise cattle on the property. He was so proud of his first “herd” and most of them he even named. He made many trips from Houston to Littlefield to check on the cattle and to just “piddle around” the place. Everyone in the family worried about his travel and being out on the property alone, but he was in his element and loving every minute of it.
Walt never feared the unknown and adventure. In 2000, one of Walt's most exciting experiences was flying with his friend Bud Barton and two other gentleman in their private aircraft through the northern portion of America, into Canada and the Yukon territory all the way into the Arctic Circle. While planning this trip, he made lots of preparation for possibly being stranded in the wild and a possible need to sleep under the wings the planes, even to the point of purchasing a “BIG bear gun” for protection. The family was concerned with this adventure, but it was “Just Pappy and one of his adventures.” At 73, Walt was the youngest of the four. It was a harrowing experience, sometimes flying between narrow canyon walls, but one that Walt enjoyed so much. He took great pride in the fact that they made it safely to and from Inuvik, 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
In 2010, he and Billie were finally convinced that they needed to be closer to one of the kids. Still owning the farm and cattle, it only made sense that they move to the Midland-Odessa area. He continued to raise and sell the steers until about 2016. The family was very grateful to his friend, Jim McCracken, who would make day trips to the farm with him, driving (when Walt would let him) and helping in any way he could.
Most everyone who knew him could tell their own story of Walt's generosity. Not only with his money, but with his time and his experience. He always felt God had blessed him and he in turn wanted to be a blessing to others. He would often stop along the road to help someone he saw stranded. One time while traveling on a freeway, he saw a family stranded. With heavy traffic, he was unable to get to the side or even exit to come back and help them. He fretted and worried about it for many miles while Billie tried to console him that there was nothing he could do about it. Another often heard phrase of his came from that experience: “Sometimes you just have to leave them on the freeway and let God handle it.”
Walt had a deep respect and love for God. When asked if he was okay, his reply would most often be: “Yes, with the help of the Lord.” His diagnosis of Alzheimer's was hard for him to accept. He always felt that he could do anything he set his mind to do and he had no intention of sitting back and letting life pass him by. Walt was quite famous for his many stories. When he would lift that left index finger and begin to speak, everyone knew they were in for at least one story with many intimate details. As he aged, sometimes the stories may have grown a bit – even into “tall tales,” but he did lead an interesting life and wanted to share his experiences. Like Billie, the last few years of his life were somewhat unsettling for him. He felt confined and unable to “fix” stuff and just “piddle around.”
He never lost his love for Billie – oh they had their disagreements, to be sure – but he was always trying to make sure she was taken care of. Even in her final days, he was concerned and was constantly asking the care-givers to “go check on my wife, please.” It was obvious that he wouldn't want to live very long after she was gone, even making the statement more that once - “she's going to go first, after I've made sure that you've taken care of everything and buried her just right, then I'm going to go join her.” Together they lived their lived and together they will live eternally with their Savior Jesus Christ.
The family would like to take this opportunity to express their appreciation to friends and family who have supported Granny & Pappy, especially during their final years. Thank you for the many messages of love and support we have received during this time of loss.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Walter Lee Pierce, please visit our floral store.