Louis Henry Pepper

Jul 21, 1924 – Dec 23, 2016


Louis Henry Pepper passed peacefully on December 23, 2016 following a brief illness. Born near Libertyville, IL on July 21, 1924 to Louis and Dora Sievers Pepper, Lou was their youngest child and only boy. While his three older sisters would say they adored “the prince”, he said they teased him mercilessly, then he would smile with the memories.

Lou grew up on farms in several small towns in southern Wisconsin. He spent most of his youth outdoors skiing, skating, hunting, and exploring and passed on this love of the outdoors to his children and grandchildren.

He was a pilot in World War II spending three years as an Army Air Corps First Lieutenant in the Pacific Theater. After the war, he took full advantage of the GI Bill at University of Wisconsin, Madison and earned his undergraduate and law degrees in 5 years. Setting off on a post college adventure, he landed in Seattle in 1951, met Mollie and settled in for a long, wonderful life of “successful compromise”. Family life was full of skiing, tennis, car trips to wherever and lots of laughter and fun.

He joined the Law firm of Tanner Garvin and Ashley in 1951, known today as Foster Pepper.  Washington Mutual Savings Bank was his major client leading him to become a national expert in mutual savings bank law. His expertise made him the logical candidate to lead Washington Mutual through the banking challenges of the early 80s thus he became President and CEO in 1981. He would say some of his major successes at the bank were hiring very intelligent woman in leadership roles, establishing corporate values, the first being “every human interaction should be dignified and courteous” and establishing a culture where business excellence and human kindness succeeded together.

Lou served as a director on many boards and organizations including the Museum of History and Industry, Museum of Flight, Washington Roundtable, Federal Home Loan Bank, Nature Conservancy,  and the Seattle Alliance for Education. He especially enjoyed serving as a Regent for Washington State University. He belonged to the Seattle Tennis Club, the University Club, the Rainier Club, Seattle Rotary, Anglo-American Real Property Institute and the American Bar Association.

After retiring as Chairman and CEO in 1991, he remained on the board until 1997. He and Mollie retired to LaConner, Washington where they happily ensconced themselves in Skagit Valley life. They supported Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland, local artists and, of course, gardened to their hearts content. Lou had quite the orchard of apples, plums and pears (often on one tree – he loved grafting on fruit trees) and loved delivering them to anyone and everyone who wanted home grown fruit. 

After Mollie passed in January of 2014, Lou began to spend more time at Skyline in Seattle where he enjoyed the company of many very interesting people. He was truly enjoying life there and was looking forward to 2017, but the angels had a different plan. Accepting he was about to embark on his next adventure, he was smart, kind and funny to the end.

He was predeceased by his wife Mollie Venables Pepper, and his parents and sisters. He is survived by his children Lou Pepper (Ruth Williamson), Margy Pepper (Dan Roth), Betsy (Chris) Larson, Willie (Yori) Milo, “adopted” son Jamie Reagan as well as his grandchildren Mollie Pepper (Kee Hinkley), Kady (Margot) Shumway, Pepper (Keith) Tompkins, August Eschbach, Lucie Pepper and Jack Pepper and many beloved nieces and nephews. He wanted to give special thanks to the community at Skyline for making life so enjoyable, and most particularly his neighbors Ann, Norma and Max for their wonderful and cherished friendship.

A celebration of his life will be held at 11am, January 17, 2017 at St. Joseph’s Church, 732 18th Ave E, Seattle followed by a reception at The Sunset Club, 1021 University St, Seattle. Remembrances, if desired, may be made to the Museum of History and Industry, Attn: Development Office, PO Box 80816, Seattle, WA  98107 https://3365.blackbaudhosting.com/3365/Museum-Operations-Annual-Fund---Individual ; Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland, PO Box 2405, Mount Vernon, WA  98273 http://www.skagitonians.org/make-a-donation/ or Museum of Flight, 9404 E Marginal Way S, Seattle, WA  98108 https://www.museumofflight.org/Giving/donate or an organization special to you.


Lynette Johnson
Sammamish, WA
Feb 2, 2017

I met Lou in the elevator at the Washington Mutual Savings Bank in 1982 traveling up from the parking garage. Always a smile and truly ask "how are YOU". One day he did not see my smile and ask if he could help. Honestly I had no idea who he was. We spoke and he gave me his business card. Foster Pepper & Rivera. He said you give them this card and there will be no problem. Hummm That's all it took. He never forgot a name and his smile was contagious. He is remembered fondly for being kind to all that approached him. Many a man could learn lessons from Lou. He will be missed by all. May God Bless and keep him in his care. Lynn

Randy Miller
Portland, or
Jan 23, 2017

Losing Lou is losing my hot-tub pal at Smoke Tree Ranch. We would sit in there and discuss global issues until we were just about fried! I loved having him at STR and enjoyed his company immensely. Hope he has a hot-tub up where he is now!

Ed Henderson
Auburn, Wa
Jan 22, 2017

I am sorry for the passing of Mr. Pepper. He was a great person to work for and very interesting person to have the Job of President of Washington Mutual Savings Bank.

I served for the bank for 10 years in "Real Estate" Managing Construction, Maintenance and 4 other Division. He was not afraid to talk to anyone and was very polite to all employees.

Mr. Pepper, Thanks for being a great guy and for being friendly to your employees. Ed Henderson

John & Judy Mills
Seattle, WA
Jan 17, 2017

We miss Lou both in business and at Skyline.

Barbara Krusi
Smok Tree Ranch, Palm Springs, CA
Jan 7, 2017

What a bright light Lou was! I will miss our entertaining and interesting lunches and dinners with him. My condolences to all the family. You are blessed to have had so many amazing and happy times with him to remember. Barbara

Alan and Debby Doman
Edmonds, WA
Jan 5, 2017

It is difficult to express our affection for Lou and Mollie and appreciation for their many kindnesses and leadership during and after our days together at Washington Mutual. But I thought I would share this memory -- perhaps unknown to some in the family but remembered by all who were there when it happened.

In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, Washington Mutual had a morale boosting group known as the Applause Committee. I had the privilege of chairing that group for several years. The Committee focused on employee recognition, and became a regular part of bank events, and twice presented a play in the lobby of the Main Branch based on the Wizard of Oz called The Great and Powerful Lou.

The Committee often recognized outstanding employees with certificates called “Letters of Praise,” or “LOP.” One year at the State of the Group meeting, we created and presented, Academy Award-style, a “LOP for LOU.” I found a few notes from that presentation that give a sense of the great regard we all had for our leader. Here is an extract from those notes:

Lou, do you remember when the Applause Committee took over the Financial Center lobby for your birthday last year? And did that stupid skit called “Louie, Louie” and we all sang the “Louie, Louie” song as you followed the yellow brick road through the Land of Corporate Values? You’ve been known ever since as “The Great and Powerful Lou” or “GPL” for short.

We’ve recognized a lot of premiere people here today and said a lot of nice things about Washington Mutual, but we all recognize that you have been the driving force behind all this and we want to acknowledge your great contribution to this organization.

As a memento of your trip with us down the yellow brick road of Louie Louie Land, “Dorothy” would like to present you with her ruby-red slippers, this silver Applause pin and this special Letter of Praise (LOP for LOU!)

The presentation was followed by a rousing rendition of the “Applause Song.” Lou kept those ruby-red slippers on a shelf in his office until his retirement. R I P—G P L.

Al Doman

Washington Mutual – 1976-2003

Orchideh Raisdanai
Duvall, WA
Jan 5, 2017

Mr. Lou Pepper inspired & instilled the heart in business. He raised so many lives for the better...teach a man to fish & he can feed himself for the rest of his life...this comes to mind when I think of him. He was a mentor during my early days in banking. I was unsure of a woman's role & opportunities. He blew all the doubts away. He left me with a draft copy of his second book to read/edit & many encouraging notes throughout my career. His passion for people & customers translated into success for us all. I have never known so many women in leadership & many of them were there because of his support. This was his gift to my life. God bless you & thank you Mr. Pepper (I mean Lou)! You will be missed & those of us who you've blessed will continue to make you proud.

Laura Plough
Seattle, WA
Jan 4, 2017

Margy and family,. I am so very sorry to learn of the passing of your father. He was a wise and well-regarded gentleman in the business world and I'm certain that he was a wonderful Dad. Please know that you are all in my thoughts and prayers.

Laura Plough

HNA '76

Julie and Earl Barron
Oakland, CA
Jan 4, 2017

Uncle Lou was such an influence on our family - we could talk for hours he always had a great story or three! We will miss you and think of you often.

Lynn Weiner Anderson
Seattle, WA
Jan 4, 2017

Dear Pepper Family,

I wanted to let you know how special Lou and Mollie are to me. My dear departed grandparents were named Lou and Molly. They were the gentlest souls on the earth and I believe your parents were made from the same mold. I am sorry I will not be able to join on 1/17 to celebrate Lou's life.

I'd like to think that Lou and I really did have a special relationship, but I believe Lou treated everyone as a dear friend. He is the type of person the world, this country and corporate America needs desperately. He will forever be a kind and humble gentleman in my mind, the epitomy of humility. Always to greet folks with a warm smile and a great story.

I loved my visits to La Conner and doing the fruit tree tour in Lou's little cart. His plum trees were much more prolific than mine and I enjoyed each and every plum he sent home with me.

Bless you all and I hope you are able to stay focused on the wonderful memories of a man who made everyone's life better who got to know him.

Much love,

Lynn Weiner Anderson

WaMu, 1985-2006

Original member of the Applause Committee

This obituary is provided by Bonney-Watson, providing caring and compassionate funeral, cremation and cemetery services since 1868. We have a professional staff, four funeral homes, two cremation facilities and one of the largest cemeteries south of Seattle, as well as a comprehensive grief support program.