Finest Hour 141, Winter 2008-09
Eminent Churchillians – Jay Piper: Throwing a Line to a Fellow Sailor
By Larry Kryske
Commander Kryske, USN (ret.) was M.C. at the 1988 Bretton Woods Conference and runs Churchillian leadership programs at www.yourfinesthour.com in Plano, Texas.
Jay Piper, twenty-six years a CC member, discovered Churchill while recovering from open heart surgery in 1984. A friend gave him William Manchester’s The Last Lion as a get-well present. Jay recounted that “a lot of people have feet of clay, but Sir Winston Churchill in my eyes was a genuine hero.”
Jay had seawater in his blood. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1955 until 1974 aboard nineteen ships ranging from aircraft carriers to cruisers and destroyers. And he had music in his soul. He played with several Navy bands and served as bandmaster at a number of commands. His tours of duty included serving as bandmaster for the Commander, Cruiser Destroyer Flotilla 12 and for Commander, U.S. Second Fleet. His favorite tour was as part of Admiral Briscoe’s U.S. Naval Forces, Europe, home ported in Naples, Italy. Jay rose through the ranks to Command Master Chief at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Bremerton, Washington, and also served as bandmaster for the 13th Naval District in Seattle.
In 1969, Jay was a co-founder of the Navy Alcohol Rehabilitation Program, which helped over 500,000 sailors over the next thirty-nine years. After he retired from the Navy he was involved with various hospital intervention programs in San Diego and at Scripps Institute in La Jolla. His marketing and public relations expertise made him a valuable promoter of those programs.
Jay later became the director of the Farragut Brass Band in Bremerton, Washington, where he also played solo tenor plus French horn in the local symphony. In September 1994, the Farragut Brass Band played the ceremony for the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II aboard the battle-ship USS Missouri, where General Douglas MacArthur had accepted the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay (see Finest Hour 140:73).
Churchill’s magnanimous nature has served as a powerful inspiration to Jay Piper. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina claimed over 600 books and 50 videos about Churchill belonging to this writer, then living in Pascagoula on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Jay was looking for a good home for his Churchill collection of over one hundred books. He decided to “throw Commander Kryske a line” and donated his entire collection to him. Jay’s kindness and big-heartedness were certainly in keeping with the finest traditions of Winston Churchill, who once observed, “Compassion, charity and generosity are noble virtues…”