Editor’s Note: Every Sunday, The Herald-Mail airs “A Life Remembered”. Each story in this continuing series takes a look back – through the eyes of family, friends, colleagues, and more – on a recently deceased community member. Today’s “A Life Remembered” is about Karl Lee Pile, who died on December 18 at the age of 89. His obituary first appeared in The Herald-Mail on December 20.
Karl Pile was not the type of guy who looked for rewards or recognition for the things he did.
He was dedicated to his family, his church, his community and the clients of his Karl Pile septic service because he truly cared about people, his daughter Karla Pile said.
“He did things because they had to be done,” she said.
His son Brian Pile, who now owns and operates the service, said he and his team were working to keep doing business like his father did, dispelling any preconceptions customers might have about the experience of pump their septic tank.
Pile was a nice, smart guy who showed up in a well-maintained pump truck, dressed in a clean, shiny shirt and pleated pants.
“Just because you’re in this business doesn’t mean you have to look like you are in this business,” Brian said.
Pile’s trucks were known for the image of a bee on the tank holding a ladle, a nod to the slang term Honeydipper for someone who removes sewage.
And it got noticed.
“I used to get calls and they’d say, ‘Are you the company with the bees on your back? “, Said his wife Patricia Pile.
It was part of Pile’s well-known sense of humor, which his four children inherited.
“He either had a cue or a long story,” Karla said.
“He was just one of those personalities,” Brian said. “Everyone loved him.”
Pile was one of 10 children whose work ethic began at an early age, when he worked in his father’s coal mine in the small community of Friedens in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.
At the age of 8, he was driving a truck carrying coal from the mine to the landfill, where it was loaded for transport elsewhere. The truck stayed on the coal property, not the road, his family is quick to point out.
“He’s worked his whole life,” Patricia said.
As teenagers who met in church, they used to go out together in that coal truck.
They married in 1954 while serving in the United States Army Security Agency stationed in Kenai, Alaska, where he was an expert in Morse code and interpreted Russian messages.
He didn’t mention it.
“What he did is still classified,” Patricia said.
The couple and their friends didn’t have much money back then, but they enjoyed simple pleasures like playing cards at their home, which has become a kind of hangout.
It was also a gathering place for moose, which Pile used to feed. Patricia once took a photo of a moose “attack” when she jumped on her husband because he was out of bread.
They also caught quite a few fish from local streams, as parts of Alaska have 24 hours of daylight in the summer. They could even go fishing at 1 a.m. when he got out of work.
Pile served in the Army from 1952 to 1955, then moved to Hagerstown to join his father’s company, RM Pile and Sons in Cearfoss.
“It was not work”
The company manufactured concrete septic tanks. In 1976, Pile bought the pumping part of the business and went into business on his own.
“He enjoyed it,” Patricia said. “It wasn’t work.”
He turned the business into a business that supported his family and sent his four children to college.
“Her family and her God were No.1,” Karla said.
Pile’s active practice of his Christian faith – he served the Haven Lutheran Church in choir, on council, on committees, as Sunday School superintendent, and as a usher – was evident in the way which he conducted his business.
Sometimes he went the extra mile without charging extra.
Working with his father, Brian once pulled an expensive diamond ring out of a septic tank. The client had told Pile that he would make the messy job worth it, but Pile did not charge extra for the feat.
Another time, a woman called in the middle of the night to say her children were sick and her septic tank was back up. Battery came out and got the job done in the pouring rain.
“He didn’t take advantage of people who were in a bad situation,” Brian said.
He has also helped people in difficult situations, once while shopping for groceries for a burnt family in their apartment.
His dedication to the Maugansville Ruritan Club included serving on committees and as president, and making an initial arrangement for the club to sell Christmas trees at the Longmeadow Mall. He also served the Ruritan as the Lieutenant Governor of the Zone 2 Potomac District.
Pile worked at the joint carnival held at the mall by Long Meadow Volunteer Fire Co., of which he was a founding and life member, and Maugansville Goodwill Volunteer Fire Co., of which he was a former member. He was an active firefighter for 20 years.
Patricia remembers that their basement was full of goldfish in plastic bags that were offered as prizes for children’s games at the carnival. The four children, Brian, Karla, Kevin Pile and Denise Wood, helped by blowing air into the bags to keep the fish healthy.
“In other words, the whole family was involved in a lot of things,” Patricia said.
Brian and Kevin both achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, thanks to their father’s involvement with the Boy Scouts of America. Pile was a former chairman and board member of Troop 64 in Maugansville and a member of the Order of the Arrow.
Other organizations that Pile was involved with included the Maugansville Little League, North Hagerstown High School Band Boosters, Washington County 4-H, Masonic Friendship Lodge No. 84, and Morris Frock American Legion Post 42.
“He was an amazing man,” Kevin said.
“He had the kindest heart”
Pile amazed guests at the camp he and Patricia co-owned with three other families near Mercersburg, Pa., Brewing large cauldrons of his famous vegetable soup and making huge breakfasts in an oversized skillet. Sometimes there were up to 50 people at a time.
His only indulgence for himself was his “toy room”.
He transformed the garage at his Hagerstown home into an awe-inspiring room featuring models including NASCAR dumpers, Hess collectible trucks, and coal mining memorabilia on every wall.
Leaning in the corner is one of the 4-foot “stallions” engraved with his company name which he handed out as one of the promotional items reflecting his keen sense of humor. He also handed out promotional pencils with erasers on both ends for people who make a lot of mistakes.
This story is not the first time Pile has appeared in The Herald-Mail.
A 1983 clipping with the headline, “Volunteer firefighter frees himself after two hours trapped in a hole” includes photos and a story about how he got stuck while repairing a septic tank and fell apart. widely released with rescuers by his side.
Pile remained healthy and active and continued to serve others until his death.
He was in Dunkin Donuts looking for donuts for the Ruritan club members who were working on the Christmas tree yard when he suffered a stroke. He died eight days later.
“There wasn’t a long period of suffering, it was the right thing,” Brian said. “He was 89 and doing what he wanted to do.”
“He had the kindest heart,” Kevin’s wife Kim said. “No matter who you were, he would always welcome you into the family.”