James Pierre Perney streaked into heaven December 29, 2013 surrounded by friends and family, who comprised just a fraction of the hearts Pierre touched during his time on Earth. Pierre never found an adventure or a double-dare he would turn down.
From turning cartwheels while behind the wheel of a VW Bug to diving into a raging river to rescue a child in trouble to fighting fires and clearing snow off of Trail Ridge Road at 11,000 feet, Pierre shrank away from nothing.
People remember his deep belly laugh that rolled from him. His smile, sometimes hidden behind a trademark beard and mustache, never faltered. He was not the type of friend who would bail you out of jail. Instead, he was the type of friend who would be sitting next to you in the cell with a huge grin on his face that said, "Let's do that again!" Many who knew him could tell tale after tale of adventures with Pierre, just not in mixed company.
But in mixed company, Pierre was always in fine form. He had a knack for diffusing any situation and for making people feel welcome anywhere. With a wink and a smile, Pierre made sure everyone felt at home, even if not quite at ease (because Pierre always had that underlying streak of mischief just waiting to rise up). He lived every minute of his life, which often led to him being late moving on to the next thing – his doodley-doop curse. It wasn't that he didn't want to be on time, it was whatever he was doing right now couldn't wait. Sometimes that was sorting through his collection of everything, and all who knew him know that could take eons.
Pierre saved it. All of it. Because, after all, it will be worth money someday. Or he might need it. But in reality, he did need it and he did use it. All of it. He traveled from beaches to mountains, taking in all the scenery with his family and his dogs beside him. The forests of Idaho called to him and when he made it to the beaches of North Carolina, he was just in time to join the Uncle Lyle Club – a midnight fishing foray that netted, well, not much, but everyone had a blast.
As far as blasts, nobody will forget Fourth of July parties with Pierre. A few mortars here, the occasional blown-up fence post there, and more than one naked-sparkler brigade made that particular holiday a Pierre special. As he aged a bit, like bourbon, he became a bit smoother. He joined the Pinewood Springs volunteer fire department while continuing to work at the shop in Rocky Mountain National Park. Friends and family were often treated to personal tours of the Park – Pierre knew every nook and cranny. He traveled to watch his son Alec play baseball or run cross country or march in the band. He traveled with Sue and Alec to family get-togethers all across the country and at every one, people were treated to Pierre's joyous personality. A young relative, upon hearing that Pierre had passed away, drew a picture of a brightly colored bird sitting among a flock of dull gray birds and wrote, "In the Dullness, there is colour…be the one that is beautiful." And that was Pierre.
Pierre will be missed by everyone he ever met, especially so by his wife Sue and son Alec. He is also survived by his brother Abner, and his sisters Ann and Susan and their families, as well as friends and relatives all over the country.
Pierre brought color to this world. He was never a boring soul and he lit up everywhere he went. If you look behind him at the trail he left, it glows fiery bright and loops around everyone he met. The world is a bit duller, a bit grayer today now that Pierre has moved on to his next adventure. And he managed to move on, ironically enough, before us all – he beat feet to Heaven's Gate and he walked up to it with a sparkler in one hand and a beer in the other and he greeted St. Peter with a smile and then yelled, "Let's Get LOOOOOOSE!!"
A celebration of Pierre's life will be held at the Community Church of the Rockies, 1700 Brodie Ave, Estes Park, at 2 p.m. on Saturday, January 4, 2014, followed by a procession and interment at Estes Valley Memorial Gardens. The celebration will continue at Local's Grill. Contributions in Pierre's memory can be made to the Pinewood Springs Fire Protection District in care of Allnutt Funeral Service. Information and online guest book can be accessed at www.allnutt.com.
Published in Estes Park Trail-Gazette on Jan. 4, 2014