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Leonard Piper Remembered in His Hometown

by Chris Sorensen |

Leonard Piper grew up on a farm with five brothers and three sisters. He was a popular student at Derry High School, where he took part in a play and enlisted in the Navy before graduating in 1945. He served his stint in the military stateside and entered the University of Montana in the fall of 1947 to study geology.

While studying at the university, Piper lived with or near his sister, Thelma, and her husband, Eli McDowell, in Helena. He had completed his second year of studies when he perished in the Mann Gulch fire.

A Piper family member, quoted in a Helena High School history project, indicated the family members in Derry first learned of Leonard's death from a local forester, Bob Joynter. The young man's body reportedly was identified when a key to Thelma McDowell's house was discovered, and the identification was confirmed by Eli McDowell's brother, Lloyd.

On Aug. 12, Leonard's remains arrived in Westmoreland County, at the Latrobe train station. Following a funeral at the Hebron Lutheran Church, he was laid to rest at Bethel Cemetery in Stahlstown.