Former Ahoskie mayor succumbs

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 29, 2003

AHOSKIE – The man responsible for building one of the most respected printing businesses in eastern North Carolina, Charles I. Pierce Sr., passed away here Saturday following a short illness. He was 85.

Pierce spent the majority of his life as a business, political, civic and faith-based community leader in the Roanoke-Chowan area.

In 1940, he and R. Lee Gatling formed Gatling-Pierce Printing, a small two-man operation, working with second-hand equipment, on Main Street in Ahoskie. From there, the company grew and eventually Pierce, in 1962, bought-out his partner’s interest in the firm and Pierce Printers was born, an award-winning business that he has nurtured for over 50 years.

Pierce Printers – with son Charlie Jr. and his daughter, Carolyn, now a part of the business – has been at its current location, US 13 South, since 1970.

&uot;It’s not often that a son can learn a trade from his father, but I got to learn from the best, my dad,&uot; said Charlie Pierce. &uot;Daddy loved this business, so much to the point where he still came to the office every day. He was still sharp as a tack when it came to running a business.&uot;

However, the business of commercial printing wasn’t the only place where Pierce Sr. stood tall.

He served Ahoskie as its Mayor for 10 years (1963-1973), a time period that saw the town undergo significant growth. During his terms as Mayor, Pierce spearheaded efforts for the town to build a new library, post office and town garage. He stood at the forefront of the widening of Ahoskie’s two major thoroughfares – Academy Street and Memorial Drive. He instituted a retirement system for town employees, had a new bookkeeping method installed for the town clerk and approved pay increases for town workers each year he was in office.

While Mayor, Pierce had the foresight to convince the Town Council members to call for a special referendum that included a half-million dollars worth of water system and street improvements in order for the town to attract new industry.

When the financial effort came-up short to build a new pool in Ahoskie, Mayor Pierce spent one day knocking on doors and came-up with the remainder of the money needed for construction.

&uot;Charles Pierce was a great man with an even greater vision for the Town of Ahoskie,&uot; stated current Ahoskie Mayor Arthur Lee Wiggins. &uot;He was the right man at the right time for this town, a time when Ahoskie was undergoing a large spurt in growth. He led us well during that time and continued as a leader beyond his years of political service.&uot;

Wiggins continued, &uot;He has been so gracious and helpful to me during my years as Mayor. I’ve always been a firm believer that when you need help, you turn to someone who has been there and done that. Charles Pierce was such a man, a leader that will be truly missed by many people.&uot;

Pierce was also a leader in local civic organizations. He was a past president of the Ahoskie Kiwanis Club and the Ahoskie Chamber of Commerce. He was a charter member of both the Ahoskie Kiwanis Club and the Ahoskie Chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, serving as the first president of that organization. He was a Mason for over 50 years and a member of the Shrine Club.

In the faith-based community, Pierce was a member, deacon and elder at First Presbyterian Church of Ahoskie, where a memorial service was held yesterday (Monday).

He was a longtime member of the General Board of Directors of Southern Bank.

In service to his country, Pierce saw action in World War II as a Sergeant in General Patton’s Third Army. He was involved in battles at Normandy, Northern France and Rhineland. For his efforts to protect his country, Pierce was awarded the Overseas Service Bar, Good Conduct Medal, American Theatre Service Medal, European/African/Middle Eastern Theatre Service Medal (with three bronze stars) and the World War II Victory Medal.

In addition to his son and granddaughter, Pierce is survived by his wife, Bernice Slaughter Pierce, a daughter, Elizabeth Pierce Moore, three sisters, one brother and three other grandchildren.

One of his grandchildren, Matt Moore of Atlanta, Ga., delivered a touching eulogy at Monday’s memorial service.

&uot;When I think of Pops, I think of a man who taught us to live life to the fullest,&uot; said Moore. &uot;He taught me so much, things I will carry with me for the rest of my life.&uot;

Memorial donations can be made to First Presbyterian Church or to the American Cancer Society.