Joe Monty Pipins
Longtime MWD employee, enthusiastic drag racer, beloved father
Joe Monty Pipins, a Claremont resident and longtime employee of the Metropolitan Water District, died on February 9, 2013. He was 72.
Mr. Pipins was born on August 2, 1940 at Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma to Joe and Jane Liddell Pipins. He spent his formative years in Parker, Arizona, where his father worked for the US Bureau of Reclamation and his mother worked as a cook in the Metropolitan Water District’s desert facility, Gene Camp, for 20 years.
A quarter Chickasaw, Mr. Pipins was proud of his American Indian heritage and of a bloodline that includes many noted Chickasaw leaders. His great-grandfather was a Chickasaw chief and his grandmother, Mini Keel Liddell, was one of the original Chickasaw enrollees on the Dawes Commission rolls. His cousin Jefferson Keel is currently lieutenant governor of the Chickasaw Nation and his cousin Linda Briggs, a former lieutenant governor, serves on the Chickasaw Tribal Legislature.
After graduating from Parker High School in 1957, Mr. Pipins, then 17, headed for Texas with his brother to work in construction with an uncle. There, he began pursuing a lifelong passion for building and racing fast cars.
Then, in 1959, he ran into Al Preston, a builder with the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), who offered him a job in La Verne. Knowing Mr. Pipins’ love of drag racing, he mentioned that the F.E. Weymouth Treatment Plant was located near the Pomona Raceway, which has hosted drag racing since 1953.
He agreed to take the job, settling in Claremont and becoming part of another family legacy: employment with the MWD. Along with his mother’s service at Gene Camp, Mr. Pipins’ brothers, Butch and Donnie, also went on to become longtime MWD employees, boasting tenures of 35 and 39 years, respectively.
Mr. Pipins held many positions in his years at MWD, including painter, sand blaster, mortar liner, welder, machinist and auto mechanic. He also served as one of the builders of the control gates at Morris Dam and engineered a tunnel-cleaning machine used to remove sludge and algae from the aqueduct pipeline running from Copper Basin to Lake Matthews. It was a point of pride for Mr. Pipins that he had been through every MWD tunnel at least once.
Mr. Pipins also took full advantage of his proximity to the Pomona Raceway, where the National Hot Rod Association held its first-ever Winternationals in 1961. Throughout the 1960s, Mr. Pipins was mechanic, owner and driver of dragsters and AA Fuel Altered cars in the NHRA. His photos may still be seen in old auto racing books and even at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum.
Mr. Pipins’ personal life also flourished in California. Lifelong Claremonter Angela Torrez met Mr. Pipins when her automobile aficionado brothers brought him home for a visit. They were married in December of 1961. Soon after, they welcomed a son, Erik, followed by a daughter, Roseanne.
Mr. Pipins’ fast-paced life was brought to a halt in 1984, when he suffered a massive stroke. He worked extremely hard during his rehabilitation, earning the patient of the year honor at Casa Colina before returning to work in 1985. Though in later years he used a wheelchair, Mr. Pipins continued to be a member of the MWD family until his retirement in 2010.
He had the distinction of being the only 51-year employee of the water district and was proud of his service, his family noted. Exceptionally sociable and gifted with a distinct sense of humor, Mr. Pipins was especially thankful for the many lifelong friends and colleagues he met along the way.
“He was a loving, caring and patient father and he will be forever in our hearts,” his children shared.
Mr. Pipins is survived by his wife, Angela Torrez Pipins; by his children, Erik and Roseanne Pipins; by his grandchildren, Mercedes Pipins, D.J. Wands and Vincent Jaramillo, and by his brothers, Butch and Donald Pipins. He also leaves many beloved nieces, nephews, cousins, friends and co-workers.
He was predeceased by his mother-in-law and father-in-law, Joe and Rosa Torrez, who were noted members of the Claremont community.
Graveside services for Mr. Pipins will be held Monday, February 18, 2013 at 11 a.m. at Oak Park Cemetery, located at 410 S. Sycamore Ave. in Claremont. A celebration of his life will follow, to be held at the Claremont Center for the Spiritual, 509 S. College Ave., Claremont.