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John Cleve Pierce Jr

Originally published: May. 10, 2013
Last modified: May. 10, 2013

John Cleve "J.C.” Pierce Jr., 95, passed from this life at peace in the hands of God and in the comfort of his home near Warrenton, VA. on May 4, 2013, surrounded by his loving family.
Born in a frame house on family farmlands in Crumpler, J.C. was the only child of John Cleve Pierce and Ollie Hash Pierce. J.C. grew up on his family farm in Grassy Creek and graduated Virginia-Carolina High School at the top of his class.
Accepted into North Carolina State College (N.C.S.C.) at the age of 16, J.C. excelled in agriculture and was a leader in the student council, president of the N.C. State Agriculturist Magazine and golden key honoree. J.C. was a member of the fraternities of Alpha Zeta, Phi Kappa Phi, Lambda Gamma Delta, and Pine Burr. He served as a teachers assistant, and upon his graduation in 1939, with high honors, joined the animal industry staff at N.C.S.C.
During World War II, J.C. served in the Army. His principal assignment was as officer-in-charge of the fresh and smoked meats research and development at the Quartermaster Food and Container Institute in Chicago, Ill., conducting research and developing methods to overcome the challenges of that era for delivering meat to soldiers on the line. One success was his development of the method used for delivering cooked bacon to troops in action, which resulted in offers from top industry producers for a job after the war was over.
However, Lieutenant Pierce returned to his position, at N.C.S.C., as Assistant Professor of Animal Industry in 1946 and met the love of his life, a young WWII widow, Pauline Umberger Hotchkiss. Pauline joined N.C.S.C. in 1946 as District Agent for home demonstration agents in eighteen western N.C. counties including Ashe County. They met shortly after Pauline arrived at N.C.S.C., and began what would become a 41-year romance.
In 1947, J.C. was placed in charge of beef cattle and sheep research and teaching; in 1948, he completed his Masters of Science degree in Animal Industry in N.C. State's College of Agriculture and Engineering of the University of North Carolina.
In December, 1948,J.C. joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (U.S.D.A.) Production and Marketing Administration in Washington, D.C., as a senior marketing specialist in charge of the development and application for standard grades of livestock and meat.
The young couple married in Raleigh, in the spring of 1949, and Pauline resigned her position at N.C.S.C. to join J.C., who was already working in Washington, D.C. In 1952, they bought what is still the family farm, Evergreen Hollow in Warrenton, Va., where they raised their three daughters, Sharon, Johna and Paula.
The family produced mostly cattle, sheep, chickens, horses, hay, and garden crops for the family use, and John commuted to U.S.D.A. in Washington, D.C. In 1971, his daughter Johna joined both his carpool and the U.S.D.A.
John's U.S.D.A. career included a steady series of promotions, until he became the Director of the Livestock Division in 1966. He declined further advancements and remained in that position until his retirement in 1979. John led the development and implementation of meat grading standards based on yield that remain the core of the United States' meat grading system today. In the early days of federal government's use of television, John was among the first at U.S.D.A. to employ it as an educational tool to explain the advantages of the new system to the public, and how to use it to select meat cuts at the grocery store.
As Director, John was responsible for a national staff in field offices across the country, covering the activities of livestock, meat, and wool standardization, meat grading, market news, and the federal purchase of meat products for schools, needy families and institutions.
The recipient of numerous performance awards, John also received the U.S.D.A.'s Superior Service Award and a special individual merit award for program cost reduction along with a letter of commendation from President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1963. He received U.S.D.A.'s Merit Award in 1967 and in 1969. In 1976, the American Meat Science Association honored John with its highest recognition, the Signal Service Award, for his contributions in the field of meats.
John's passion for agriculture and the land was infused in his daughters, who all remain partners in several family farming interests. Individually, Sharon is an organic sheep producer in Rappahannock County; Paula and her husband farm at their home in Esmont, Va., and Johna retired from a director's position for U.S.D.A. communications in the Office of the Secretary.
John remained a deeply spiritual man throughout his life, serving the former United Methodist Church (U.M.C.) on Winchester Street in Warrenton in many different capacities, including leadership as Lay Leader, Chairman of the Administrative Board, Finance Committee Chairman, Pastor-Parish Committee Chairman, Chairman of Trustees and as Vice Chairman of the Building Committee, which built the current Warrenton U.M.C. on Church Street. In 1982, John and Pauline donated the steeple to the new church in memory of their parents. When Pauline passed in early 1987, John and his daughters donated an octave of bells in her memory, as she had last participated as a ringer in the Bell Choir.
In May 1989, John married the second love of his life, Bettie Buck, and the home continued to be the center for extended family gatherings.
John enjoyed introducing new friends to his love for North Carolina and the people and blue mountains he loved so well, telling stories that continued to enthrall new listeners, even after he celebrated his 95th year.
As always, his faith in God and family supported him and he passed in peace, at home on his farm--his fervent wish expressed often since his early days there - with his beloved wife and, in his words, his "three wonderful daughters" at his bedside.
Survivors include his wife, Bettie; his daughters: Sharon Pierce of Woodville, Va., Johna Pierce Stephens of Davidsonville, Md., and Paula Pierce Beazley of Esmont, Va.; sons-in-law Tom Stephens, Jerome Beazley and Franklin van Beuren; granddaughter Alexe van Beuren and husband Kagan Coughlin of Water Valley, Miss.; granddaughters Eliza van Beuren of Washington, D.C. and Rachael Stephens of New York City, N.Y.; grandchildren Kathleen Beazley Ashley and Christopher Beazley, and six great-grandchildren; double first cousin Edith Pierce Jones and her son, Tom C. Jones; nieces Lynne Marshall and Susan Nimmanheminda; nephews Martin Umberger and David Umberger and his children.
The family expresses their deep appreciation to the community which helped make possible John's last few years at the farm, especially his many friends, neighbors and others, and extends their love and abiding gratitude to Yvonne Craig Smith of Warrenton, who assisted the family in many capacities over several decades.
Funeral services will be 1:30 p.m. Saturday, May 11, 2013, at the Warrenton United Methodist Church. Interment will follow at Warrenton Cemetery, where he will be laid to rest beside Pauline. A reception will be held at the Warrenton United Methodist Church following conclusion of interment services.
Memorial contributions, in lieu of flowers, may be made in his name to the American Meat Science Education Foundation, 1202 W Springfield Ave. Ste 1202, Champaign, Ill. 61820 or to North Carolina State Agricultural Foundation, Campus Box 7645, North Carolina State, Raleigh, NC 27695 in support of animal science and judging teams.

For more information and stories, see Ashe Mountain Times.