Highway historian dies at 89
November 21, 2007 - 10:00 pm
If you’ve ever pulled off the highway to read a snippet of history on a Nevada-shaped sign, you owe a debt of gratitude to one Wilbur Wieprecht.
During his 17-year career with the state, Wieprecht personally oversaw the addition of more than 200 of Nevada’s 269 historical markers, from Fort McDermitt on the Oregon border to the Von Schmidt State Boundary Monument at the state’s southern tip.
Wieprecht died Thursday in Carson City at the age of 89.
“He made a profound contribution to this state, to heritage tourism, and that won’t be forgotten very easily,” said State Historic Preservation Officer Ron James.
Wieprecht was born May 26, 1918, in Portland, Ore. After serving in the Army and surviving Battle of the Bulge, he spent 20 years with the Oregon State Park system.
He moved to Carson City and went to work for the state in 1965, the year after the Legislature created the historical marker program as part of Nevada’s centennial celebration.
State Archivist Guy Rocha described Wieprecht as a consummate gentleman and a dogged defender of fact over fiction.
“Wil wanted to get it right,” Rocha said. “He worked very, very hard at accuracy because he believed there was an integrity to the past.”
Even after he retired in 1982, Wieprecht continued to drop by his Carson City office on a regular basis, often with a tip about a marker that had been shot up or knocked down, James said.
“I think he enjoyed it very much. He traveled all over the place. He was always looking at markers wherever he went.”
The state’s official booklet of historical markers includes a dedication to Wieprecht.
“He really is the father of the state historical marker program,” Rocha said. “Every time you see a state historical marker, think of Wil Wieprecht.”
A memorial service for Wieprecht was held Monday at the First Presbyterian Church in Carson City.
He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Celia; a son, Mark, and daughter-in-law, Molly; a brother, Harvey; two granddaughters; and a great grandson.
Donations in Wieprecht’s name can be made to the building fund of First Presbyterian Church in Carson City or to the Carson City Historical Society.