HILL CITY | Charles A. "Charlie" Piper Jr., 88, died Thursday, June 20, 2019.
Charlie was born Sept. 2, 1930, in Cumberland, MD, the son of Charles A. and Christine (Gillette) Piper. He graduated from Allegany High School in 1948. In the Fall of 1948 he enrolled at VMI, Virginia Military Institute, and graduated in 1952 with a Bachelor of Science degree. Upon graduating he entered the U.S. Air Force, was accepted into pilot training and became a Fighter Pilot flying the F86D.
Since the Korean War was just ending, he was sent to Ellsworth AFB, arriving in February 1954. He often joked that he fought the "Battle of Box Elder". While in the Air Force he met and married Mary Vasquez. Six children were born of this union. He left the Air Force in 1956 and obtained employment as an Area Engineer for the SD Dept. of Transportation. He advanced to other positions within the department and retired in March 1993 as the Region Engineer. While employed by the SDDOT Charlie was very involved with the clean-up and road restoration after the 1972 Flood. He built the Jamie Johnson Memorial Field. He was also instrumental in the design and location of many of the highways in western SD including the resurfacing of Main Street and construction of the truck route in Hill City. In 1999, Charlie was inducted into the SD Hall of Honor.
He joined the Air Force Reserve after completing his active duty time. He was the Liaison Officer for the Air Force Academy for several years. After he finished that duty, and with the encouragement of friends, he joined the SD National Guard. His intention was to stay four years but after he was offered opportunities to go to Japan several times and Jamaica once, he stayed 12 years.
In 1975, Charlie married Sharon McCoy and acquired a step-daughter. Charlie and Sharon built their home just outside of Hill City in 1976. They enjoyed traveling extensively, seeing every state in the US, every Canadian Province except Newfoundland, parts of Mexico, the Caribbean, South Pacific and several trips to Europe. Sharon took the pictures and Charlie kept the log.
After retirement Charlie needed something to occupy his time so in 1994 he went to work as a fireman on the 1880 Train in Hill City. He gave that up in 2011 and started working as a volunteer at the SD State Railroad Museum where he stayed until shortly before his death.
Charlie was a Past Master of Tin City Masonic Lodge 112 in Hill City. After serving as Master, he served as Secretary of the Lodge for over 17 years. Charlie was also a member of Naja Shrine Temple and was active in the Color Guard and the Legion of Honor.
Charlie is survived by his devoted wife, Sharon, married almost 44 years; sons, John (Vicki) Piper, CA (Christine) Piper, and Marshall (Lynne) Piper; and daughters, Marian (Craig) Alexander and Louisa Piper. Also surviving are grandchildren, Morgan Piper, Teryn Piper, Logan Piper, Matt Alexander, Ross Alexander, Callie Piper, Candice Sano, Piper Ferrell, Alex Piper, Alicia Piper and step-grandson Jeff Turman; and 14 great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his parents; son, Richard; and step-daughter, Shannon Wright.
Visitation will be from 5-7 p.m. on Monday, June 24, at Osheim & Schmidt Funeral Home in Rapid City.
Masonic services will be at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, June 25, at the funeral home. Interment will follow at the Hill City Cemetery located on Deerfield Road. Full military honors will be provided by the Ellsworth Air Force Base Honor Guard.
At the conclusion of services, the family invites guests to join them for lunch at the Hill City Senior Citizen Center located across the street from the 1880 Train.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Naja Shrine Hospital Transportation Fund.