Area mourns Pierce’s passing

Published 9:36 am Tuesday, March 24, 2009

WINTON – The love of family, church and Hertford County was paramount in the life of John Pierce.

The former Hertford County Commissioner is being remembered today for those traits following his untimely death Sunday morning.

“I’m still in shock,” said Hertford County Commission Chairman Howard J. Hunter III. “It’s like losing a family member. I kind of grew up in the community with Commissioner Pierce because my grandparents lived there.”

Hunter said he would miss Pierce on both a personal and professional level.

“He was a good friend, a great colleague and an excellent commissioner,” Hunter said. “He will be greatly missed by the community.”

Hunter said he was pleased that Pierce was able to chair his final meeting of the commission in November.

“I sat in his chair and he sat in mine and conducted the meeting,” Hunter said. “I’m glad he had that opportunity.”

Commissioner DuPont L. Davis was a first cousin of Pierce and said the two worked well together.

“Once he realized the power and authority of a commissioner, he worked diligently for the people of Hertford County,” Davis said. “He loved being a commissioner, but not for the title. He loved to do everything he could to help the citizens of Hertford County. Whatever he could do to help the county, he would do it.

“Everything he was involved with, he did to the best of his ability,” Davis concluded.

Commissioner Johnnie R. Farmer also served with Pierce. He called his fellow board member’s death “shocking.”

“He was at one of our meetings recently and seemed very healthy,” Farmer said. “He certainly will be missed in the community.”

Farmer said he would remember Pierce’s care for the community.

“He always listened to the people and tried to look after them,” Farmer stated. “I think he was passionate about serving the people of Hertford County.”

Commissioner Curtis A. Freeman echoed those thoughts.

“My first reaction was shock,” Freeman said. “Commissioner Pierce and I worked well together. He always had the best interest of the citizens at heart. Even when he was no longer on the board, he wanted to serve.

“It’s a great loss to lose someone that was willing to serve and was so dedicated to giving his all,” Freeman concluded. “Hertford County lost a true citizen.”

Hertford County Manager Loria D. Williams said the county offices were somber Monday as employees remembered Pierce and his work within the county.

“He came to the February 16 meeting and made citizen’s comments,” Williams said. “He expressed his desire to continue to be a public servant in Hertford County. He talked about some of our challenges and offered help. That was just John Pierce.

“He was the epitome of a public servant,” she continued. “The other commissioners often kidded him about being on duty 24-7, but that was really true.”

Williams said she would always treasure the knowledge Pierce shared from his work as an administrator at the shipyard and the principled way he chose to serve as a board member.

“He governed for the best interest of Hertford County and he governed from his heart,” she said. “He was a principled man. “

Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan also said he was shocked to hear of Pierce’s death.

“It was a shock to all of us,” the sheriff said. “He was a friend and a great county commissioner. I knew him, but got to know him well over the past four years. He will be missed by the community and he will be missed by me as a friend.”

Hertford County Office on Aging Director Linda L. Blackburn was deeply saddened by the loss of Pierce.

“We lost an advocate for seniors,” she said. “He loved older adults. During his time as commissioner, he really did so much for older adults. Even after he left office, he was still an advocate for this office and these seniors.

“He also loved this area,” Blackburn said. “His loss will leave a void in a lot of lives, especially ours here.”

Carl White, the president of the Hertford County Chapter of the NAACP and a coworker of Pierce’s, said he was saddened and shocked by Pierce’s passing.

“My heart is just sad about his passing,” White said. “He is going to be greatly missed in the community. He was a community – church – family-oriented person and a friend to me. It’s such a hard thing to believe.”

Two of Pierce’s fellow commissioners in other counties also said he would be missed.

“He was a very nice gentleman,” said Northampton Commission Chairman Robert V. Carter. “I didn’t know him that well, but I always enjoyed talking with him when we would meet. One thing I learned was that he cared about Hertford County. He expressed that in every conversation.”

Bertie County Commission Vice Chairman L.C. Hoggard III had similar thoughts.

“It’s sad,” Hoggard said. “The times I met him, I knew one thing for sure, he had the citizens of Hertford County close to his heart. He was an all-around great guy.”

Long before his time on the Hertford County Board of Commissioners, Pierce was a member of the Hertford County Board of Education. Jim Garrison, who also served on the board, said Pierce was just as dedicated to his community at that time.

“John Pierce was very much interested in community – every phase of community life – be it school board or government,” Garrison said. “I enjoyed the time we served together. He was a fine man. Hertford County is gonna miss him.

“As far as I’m concerned, everything John Pierce did, he did a good job at it,” Garrison added.

Pierce’s work was also remembered by Rep. Annie W. Mobley (D-5th).

“The community has lost one of its pillars,” Rep. Mobley said. “He was a great commissioner as well as his work with the rescue squad. He will be truly missed by all of us, particularly the people of his community.”

As part of his community service, Pierce also served as a member of the C.S. Brown Alumni Association and the Hertford County ABC Board.

Pierce served as Trustee for Pleasant Plains Baptist Church for 36 years.

He was employed at Northrop Gruman Newport News Shipbuilding for 38 years and also was co-owner of Pierce Brothers with his brother, Rex.

Pierce was a retired member of the Winton Rescue Squad after serving for 29 years. He was also business manager of the Newport News Shipyard Commuter’s Club.

The late commissioner is survived by his wife, Valeria, a son, Jeffrey Pierce and a daughter, Jeri Pierce.

For a complete obituary, see page 6A in today’s edition.