So long, Pierre.
Listen To You Tell Me Texas Friday 2/5/16
Pierre de Wet, the founder and guiding light of the Kiepersol galaxy of enterprises, died suddenly last week and left an army of people who love him gasping for breath.
That army turned out in abundance Wednesday at his KE Bushman’s event venue to say goodbye while celebrating his life.
Pierre’s sponsorship from day one of this feature compels that I take this moment to remark on the life of this remarkable man.
Pierre once told me that he would write a check for $100,000 if it would buy him a Texas accent. If you knew Pierre and listened to him, you know that that check never got written. Instead, for 15 years, I have been his Texas accent. I have had the honor of speaking on radio stations that I own on behalf of the wonderful thing that he created and named Kiepersol.
I can’t imagine a more quintessentially American success story than that of Pierre de Wet. He came to the United States from South Africa in 1984, with his two little girls, Marnelle and Velmay, and having just lost his wife to cancer. He arrived with little money and even less command of English.
All he wanted from America was a chance.
America gave him that chance and he made the most of it. He adopted America and Texas as his home and he wore his American citizenship proudly until the very hour of his death.
At EPCOT Center in Florida, in the portion of the world showcase that celebrates America, there is a replica of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. Inscribed on the wall inside is a quote from George Mardikian, a naturalized American citizen from Armenia. He could have been speaking specifically about Pierre’s experience when he said,
You who have been born in America, I wish I could make you understand what it is like to not be an American – to not have been an American all your life — and then, suddenly, with the words of a man in flowing robes to be one, for that moment and forever after. One moment you belong with your fathers to a million dead yesterdays — the next you belong with America to a million unborn tomorrows.”
From the possibilities that Pierre saw in those unborn tomorrows he changed the very face of the Earth. Go on Google Earth some time and look. The Earth appears rather happenstance in the area near Kiepersol Estates until suddenly you come upon very carefully laid-out order. You see the meticulous rows of the vineyards and it is immediately evident that someone cared deeply about what he was doing and worked very hard at doing it. The individual who shaped this particular part of the Earth was obviously purpose-driven to the point that his work can be seen from space.
And thus in the very Earth, Pierre de Wet created a self-portrait.
Many of those who turned out Wednesday know that if Pierre de Wet was your friend, by gosh you knew it. Friendship for Pierre was an all-in, nothing held back, total and unequivocal commitment. It was as warm as a late September sunset, as comfortable as a worn pair of jeans and yet as unstoppable as the wind.
Pierre’s friendship was a force of nature.
Pierre, without knowing the words, lived the words of the anonymous poet who wrote,
Two things upon this changing Earth, can neither change nor end,
The beauty of Christ’s humble birth, the love of friend for friend.”
Lastly, it must be said that Pierre was a man of simple, uncomplicated, unpretentious goodness. Pierre was a man utterly without guile and utterly self-effacing. I think I saw him in a tie once – but it’s entirely possible that I dreamed it.
Pierre was comfortable in a pair of jeans, a pair of boots and his signature hat that permanently creased his hair. His outward appearance suited a man of uncommon decency, boundless generosity and unfailing kindness. His smile had a most particular warmth.
As if speaking of Pierre, it was the 19th century American poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox who wrote,
One ship drives east and another drives west,
with the selfsame winds that blow,
‘Tis the set of the sail, and not the gale,
that tells us the way to go.
Like the winds of the sea are the winds of fate,
as we voyage along through life,
‘Tis the set of the soul that decides its goal,
and not the calm or the strife.”
For all the things I will miss about Pierre de Wet, what I will miss most is the simple set of his soul.
So long, Pierre. I love you.