William Eugene (Bill) Pierson, beloved husband, father, grandfather, uncle, brother, and friend transitioned peacefully from this life to the next on December 19, 2021. He was 93 years young.
Bill was born in Ottawa, Illinois in 1928, to Elmer and Marjorie Pierson. The small farming town was filled with extended family, and Bill had fond memories of fishing, playing football, swimming, Sunday dinners, and altar serving with his brothers Bob and Don and their many cousins. After high school, Bill attended and graduated from the University of Notre Dame, majoring in Mechanical Engineering and cementing a lifelong devotion to the Fighting Irish.
After a brief stint working at General Electric, Bill served in the Army during the Korean War, an experience he credited with providing the groundwork for his future engineering career. He studied electronics (and played on a state championship softball team) at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, later transferring to New Mexico to develop testing equipment for anti-aircraft missiles.
Following his discharge from the Army, Bill relocated to Los Angeles with his cousin Fritz. His work with American Gyro and Litton Industries didn’t slow down an active social life including skiing, beach time, and Las Vegas gambling adventures. Bill considered his role with Litton, designing an aircraft navigation system that would go on to be an integral part of planes flown by the air forces of nine nations, to be among his most fulfilling professional experiences.
When a college friend set Bill up on a blind date with a fun-loving and beautiful United Airlines stewardess in LA for a layover, he found his life partner and best friend. Bill and Jeanne Marie (Nini) Henriot were married on January 17, 1959, a date carefully selected to not interfere with any Notre Dame football games.
Bill was the original “girl dad.” He and Nini welcomed their first three daughters - Ann Marie, Joan and Julie - in their Los Angeles home. When the fourth daughter was on the way, the family moved to Portland, leaving behind many dear friends who remained close for decades. Bill took a position with a small company, later moving to Bonneville Power where he worked in management until his retirement. Daughters Susan and Patti-Sarah joined the family in Portland, filling up the big house on SW Patton Road that hosted countless birthday and graduation celebrations, bridge parties, bowl game watching events, and wedding receptions.
Most summers were spent in part at the Puget Sound, where Bill made vats of blackberry jam and hot fudge sauce, and entertained friends and family from across the Northwest. Back home in Portland, he cheered his girls through track meets and volleyball games, school plays and college applications. He applied his considerable engineering skills to hyper efficiently loading dishwashers and packing station wagons. He taught his daughters how to swing golf clubs, throw baseballs, parallel park and change flat tires. The life of every party, he had the gift of storytelling and a sharp sense of humor. A lifelong practicing Catholic, Bill found strength in his faith and deep friendships in the St. Thomas More parish community.
Bill valued athletics, service, and most of all community. As a long-time member of the Multnomah Athletic Club, he regularly joined the club’s Early Birds to start the day with a pre-dawn workout. At St. Thomas More, he was a dedicated “bean counter” of the weekly collection tally and, in his retired years, a dedicated attendee at weekday morning mass. And as a volunteer with the St. Vincent de Paul Society and Serra Club, he joined with others to express a commitment to service inspired by his Catholic faith.
In retirement, Bill and Nini enjoyed travel, with trips to Hawaii, Alaska, Virginia, Palm Springs, Ireland, and Holland as particular highlights. They welcomed nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, calling them “a joy beyond description.” Bill was especially proud that three of his daughters and three of his grandchildren carried on the tradition of earning Notre Dame degrees.
As someone with a big heart and a big family, Bill leaves behind many who love him deeply, especially his beloved wife of 62 years, Nini; daughters Ann Marie (Skip) Lei, Joan (David) Ogden, Julie (Peter) Doyle, Susan (Richard) Pierson-Brown and Patti-Sarah Pierson; grandchildren Kevin (Caitlin), Sarah and Maggie Doyle, Katie and Alex Lei, Carmen and Remy Ogden, and Isabella and Dylan Brown; and great-grandchildren Jackson Blosser, Grace and Callahan Doyle. Bill once wrote “I am one of the most fortunate persons permitted to walk on this earth,” but it is all of us who are fortunate to have known and loved Bill.
A private service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the Pierson family suggests remembrances in Bill’s honor to scholarship programs at St. Mary’s Academy or St. Thomas More Catholic School.
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