In loving memory, Joseph (Joe) Pepper

    Captain Joseph (Joe) Felix Pepper (USN Ret.) passed away peacefully on the afternoon of April 3, 2024 in Billings, Montana. He was surrounded and tended to by loved ones in his final days. In the truest sense, he was loved and gave love to others from the moment he graced this earth until the day he flew west.

    There will a Celebration of Life for Joe at 11 a.m. June 15, 2024, at Riverton United Methodist Church with a luncheon to follow. Please come and share the stories and love that this man had for his adopted community of Riverton, Wyoming. There will be a military service in Dallas TX on June 21, 2024, 3:30 pm at Dallas National Cemetery with rifle team from the Navy Veteran Assistance. Internment of Joe’s ashes will take place at the Algoma Cemetery family plot, in Marshall Texas, at a later date.

    Born in Marshall, Texas on September 12, 1940, Joseph was preceded in death by his parents Elisha J. Pepper Sr. and Faith Cirlot Pepper, his siblings John, Elisha Joshua (EJ), Paul, and Della Mae Jeter (Pepper).

    He is survived by his son, Jeremy and daughter-in-law Mary, granddaughters Ella and Lauren; nieces and nephews Robert, John, Molly, Missy, Vernon, Chris; grandnieces and grandnephews Faith, Kristen, Katherine, Blake, Spencer, Maxwell, Naomi, Sam, Rebekah, Sarah Catherine, Paul, and Andrew; and loving family and friends far and beyond.

    Joe spent his childhood in Marshall, graduating from Marshall High School, and then attended Lamar University in Beaumont Texas, majoring in Political Science. At the time of his graduation, realizing that the Vietnam conflict was escalating and that the draft was inevitable, and to follow in his family footsteps to serve his country, Joe found himself seeking a path to the military that would allow him to continue to pursue his studies. He was commissioned as a Naval Aviator.

    In 1965, he was awarded the Wings of Gold from the United States Navy and proceeded from Pensacola, Florida and joined Attack Squadron VFA-94 in San Diego, California and subsequently settled in Lemoore, California. As the war in Vietnam raged on, he was deployed aboard multiple aircraft carriers to fly missions and support U.S interests in Southeast Asia aboard the venerable USS Bon Homme Richard, USS Enterprise, and USS Hancock. He served with distinction. After ejecting from his aircraft, leaving him unable to continue flying, he continued his career in the Navy as an intelligence officer for his air wing. He retired as an O-6 Captain, with several distinctions in his field for exemplary service.

    After his active duty was completed, Joe remained as a Reserve Officer in the Navy until his retirement in the late 1980s. As a Reserve Officer, Joe served the Admiral’s Flag Ship in the Mediterranean Sea, on the USS Puget Sound in 1983. His Active Duty for Training in the Reserves included Japan, Korea, the Philippians, Washington DC, the Naval War College as well as working with POWs returning from the Vietnam conflict. These deployments meant Joe was away from his family and friends for sometimes months at a time.

    With the completion of his active duty with the Navy, Joe returned to Marshall to join the family business, the Marshall Fence Company and began a lifelong love of business and entrepreneurship.

    Capt. Pepper was a man of few vehicles, his beloved red Ford F-250 was commonly seen around Marshall Texas serving the needs of the community, in Rotary, Cub/Scouts, Summit United Methodist Church and the animal shelter. He eventually moved to Wyoming in his black Dodge RAM with the split-level topper shell. This truck was replaced with his familiar silver Honda Ridgeline seen around Riverton.

    Joe met Helen Gordon and her two young sons through a mutual friend, and they were married at Summit United Methodist Church on September 12, 1984. Coincidently both of their birthdays and now a wedding anniversary. A lovely family was formed. He decided very early on that he loved them all and never strayed from the idea that he would love to be part of their family. He loved them with every fiber of his being. His proudest day was spent adopting his son, Jeremy.

    The family relocated to Riverton, Wyoming after his retirement from the Navy to be closer to his wife’s family and helped to build a local business accommodating the increasing RV community. As a native Texan, he was proud of his home state and imbued that love into those around him. Joe loved his life in Wyoming but always referred to it as the coldest part of Texas that he had ever lived in.

    Wind River RV Park was developed under the ideas and labors of Joe’s efforts. His work ethic and enthusiastic approach to making a service minded product always made him happy. A stranger never approached his office and a friend was made immediately. He recalled every interaction instantly and was commonly known to make friends with every person in line while waiting to make a deposit at the bank.

    Joe was a man of many words. He expressed love at every moment and was fiercely proud of his life and his family. He intensely loved his people and would have fought to his last breath for the people that he cared for. He never backed away from a struggle of injustice or inequality. He spoke loudly for those that had no voice and made a point to serve those around him. In his time, holidays were spent as acts of service. He delivered meals to those who were alone on holidays or shut in from inclement weather. He reached out to those who may have been in need when they were too proud to ask. He was a dedicated and loving father to those that needed him and served in the same capacity for those who had no other way to turn. He loved well and completely.

    In lieu of flowers the family asks that donations be made to
    Or Riverton United Methodist Church

    Fair Winds and Following Seas, Captain Pepper.

    We all love you.

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