Charles A. “Charlie” Pierson, founding chief of the Southern Jackson County Volunteer Fire Department and a driving force in public and industrial safety and security throughout the state and region, died suddenly Saturday morning while responding to an accident. He was 76 years of age.

            Charlie was born October 29, 1937 in Jackson County, son of the late John and Addie Crane Pierson. He was a 1955 graduate of Ripley High School and had attended Fairplain Union Church.

            Charlie was hired by Kaiser Aluminum in 1960, originally in casting, but soon transferred into the guard force. He worked his way through the ranks and eventually was named head of plant protection, which included the guards, fire protection and medical. He worked tirelessly to improve and shape the department to include fully certified paramedics, trained and certified firefighters,  osha qualified rescue personnel and a complimentary medical department. He was a strong willed leader that constantly promoted new personnel, training and equipment until he ultimately gained corporate approval for whatever innovation he believed in for the safety and well-being for the entire workforce. Not known for political correctness, he garnered genuine respect from friend and foe alike due to his brutal honesty, knowledge, willingness to change and ability to get the most out of his people by recognizing and developing their abilities.

            As his career advanced he worked for Kaiser, Ravenswood Aluminum, Century Aluminum and Pechiney Rolled Products before retiring on January 1, 2000.

            It was also in 1960 when Charlie joined the Ripley Volunteer Fire Department. He remained a member for many years and was instrumental in 1982 of organizing a trained group of personnel in Southern Jackson County as firefighters when the Ripley department became interested in opening a sub-station in the Kenna area. That department became autonomous in 1995 when it was organized as the Southern Jackson County Volunteer Fire Department with Charlie as its first, and until Saturday, only chief.

            That department also grew under his leadership in competence and ability with the assistance of his wife, Brenda, daughter Lori and son Jay. In July, 2002, Southern Jackson County was asked to provide on-site haz-mat protection and response for then-president George W. Bush during his visit to Ripley on Independence Day. A roll usually filled by the military, Southern Jackson County was selected following a covert investigation by the Secret Service that found the local department’s personnel, training and equipment equaled that of the military.

            Charlie was also a Mason, a member of the State Firefighters Association, State Fire Chiefs Associating and International Association of Safety Professionals. At the time of his death he was also chairman of the 911 Advisory Committee, Local Emergency Planning Council and was the deputy sheriff’s representative on the Civil Service Board.

            Surviving: His wife of 54 years, Brenda Casto Pierson; Son, Jay Pierson (Melanie) of Fairplain; Daughter, Lori Pierson of Fairplain; Grandchildren, Devin, Emily, Morgan and Samuel Pierson, all of Fairplain; He is also survived by one sister and preceded in death by one sister.

            A service honoring Charlie’s life, with full fire service honors, will be Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 11 a.m. at Waybright Funeral Home with John Gunther officiating. Interment will follow the service at the Fairplain Cemetery.

            Friends may call at the funeral home Tuesday, December 10, 2013 from 4-8 p.m. Public safety members wishing to attend the service and bring apparatus may contact Jason Baltic at 304-532-8272.

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