The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
Walter J. Pitre was born and raised in Port Arthur. His parents were the late Lillie Mae and Jake Pitre. Walter Pitre joined the Rock Island Church family an early age. He became a trustee under the pastoral ship of Rev. R.L. Briscoe and worked with the young men of the church; he was a Sunday school teacher and assisted with Vacation Bible .
Mr. Pitre graduated from Lincoln High School in 1953, where he was a member of the choir and the marching band, under the direction of Mr. Oscar McNeil. He was accepted into North Western University in Evanston, Illinois. The members of his school and band all accepted him; they often called him “Little Tex” and since he was from Texas, they frequently asked him if he owned a horse.
In 1959, Mr. Pitre returned to Port Arthur. He attended Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas, where he took classes in Texas history and other subjects in order to qualify to teach in the State of Texas. In 1961, he was hired by the Port Arthur Independent School District as an assistant band director under Mr. Oscar McNiel for one year. In 1962, he began teaching band at Carver and Lamar Elementary schools. In 1963, he met the love of his life, Katie Wickliffe, and they were married in 1964. They had one son, the late Michael Pitre, who followed in his father’s musical footsteps and became a jazz musician. Upon leaving Carver and Lamar where he had taught for a number of years, he became a teacher at Booker T. Washington Elementary. He served as a voice instructor for one year and also attended Lamar University to pursue his Master’s Degree. In 1969, he transferred to Woodrow Wilson Junior High, where he was the first black band director to teach there.
Mr. Pitre dedicated 34 years of service to the Port Arthur Independent School District and retired in 1995. During his tenure with PAISD, he was a dedicated servant to Rock Island Baptist Church where he served until failing health forced him to stop.
Mr. Pitre is survived by his loving wife of 48 years, Katie Wickliffe Pitre, aunt, Bernice Guidry, sister-in-law, Rosa May Wiley (Gerald), brother-in -law, Cal Wickliffe, dear friend, Monica Upshaw, care givers, Vernon and Gail Pitre, and a host of relatives and friends.
Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 25, at Rock Island Baptist Church with Pastor Ransom E. Howard officiating. Visitation will precede the funeral, beginning at 1:00 pm. Entombment will follow at Greenlawn Memorial Park under the direction of Gabriel Funeral Home.