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‘Big brother’ leaves a lasting impact

It’s hard to drive by the brick building on the right, just past Wendy’s on US 13 South, and not think of the good old days when that location served another purpose.

Currently, that building is part of the Perdue Farms operation in the Roanoke-Chowan area, staffed by personal working in the Growout Breeder and Live Production division of the company.

But “back in the day” that building was the home of Pierce Printing – an award-winning family-owned business.

Charles I. Pierce Sr. started that company in 1962. Mr. Pierce was a keen businessman. Twenty-two years earlier, 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 bought-out his partner’s interest in the firm and Pierce Printers was born.

The business moved to the US 13 South location in 1970 and made a name for itself as a “high-end” commercial printer. Whatever its wide base of customers needed – whether it was books, programs, magazines, labels or something as simple as letterheads, personalized envelopes or business cards – Pierce Printers could handle it.

Mr. Pierce – and later his son: Charles Jr. (aka “Charlie”) – had ink in his blood. When an order was accepted, it had to meet extremely high printing standards before being allowed to wind up in the hands of its customers.

I know this personally because my wife, Deborah, worked for a number of years at Pierce Printing as a graphic designer. Her bosses – to include Mr. Pierce and Charlie – and co-workers became a key part of my life – sort of like an extended family.

We all mourned the loss of Mr. Pierce in July of 2003. And now we are doing the same with Charlie’s passing last week.

While I loved to sit in Mr. Pierce’s office and listen to his words of wisdom and advice, I perhaps felt closer to Charlie because of the age-thing. He was 10 years my senior and we were kind’a-sort’a of the same generation. I guess he was like the big brother I never had.

We also shared similarities due to our chosen careers (printing/publishing) and would swap “war stories.”

But as is so often the case, the acorn didn’t fall far from tree in the case of Charles I. Pierce Sr. and his son. Both were more than printers and the admiration I had for both men cannot be accurately measured.

Mr. Pierce served 10 years as Ahoskie’s Mayor. He held stints as president of the Ahoskie Kiwanis Club and the town’s Chamber of Commerce. He also served as the first-ever president of the Ahoskie Chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and was on the Southern Bank Board of Directors.

Charlie, likewise, took a keen interest in civic organizations, serving as president of the Ahoskie Chamber, the Ahoskie Jaycees, and the Ahoskie Rotary Club. He also helped direct the growth of Hertford County as a member of its Planning and Zoning Board.

However, despite all his business savvy and civic pride, the one thing I’ll always cherish about my friendship with Charlie Pierce was his ability to make you smile. No matter how much you found yourself down in the dumps, Charlie had a special gift for making people see the brighter side of things. His broad smile and light-up-the-room laugh was just the right prescription to make a person’s day happier.

I lost more than a friend on March 26….we all lost a generational treasure.

Rest high on that mountain, Charlie Pierce, your work here is done….and you did it well!!

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.