This is a story about a miracle 50 years in the making. 

It began when Doug Piper’s parents bought their Oak Park-Northwood home in 1957. 

As the family settled in, they hired a man named George Hall to design and install a sprinkler system. He called it the Hall-A-Matic. 

“It was a vintage masterpiece of handcrafted engineering brilliance that worked flawlessly for 52 years,” Piper said in a video posted on YouTube. “Fast forward to November 2020, and I needed to replace it.”

But Hall had retired and sold his business, so Piper found another technician who “marveled” at the system controller box. “He offered to buy it, but I refused because it was dear to me,” Piper said. 

Determined to pass the controller on to someone close to Hall, Piper posted a photo on the neighborhood app NextDoor. Landscape architect Tom Martin replied, telling Piper that he was acquainted with Hall’s daughter and that he had let her know about the post. They arranged a meeting. 

The Hall-A-Matic gifted to Kim Rapier Verette from Doug Piper. Credit: Courtesy / Kim Rapier Verette

The daughter, it turns out, is Kym Rapier Verette, a San Antonio philanthropist known for her loyal support of numerous San Antonio nonprofits, including Eagle’s Flight, the Blessed Angels Community Center, God’s Dogs, Ma Hila’s Heart, Hundred Blessing, and San Antonio Threads. 

When Piper presented Verette and her husband, Glenn, with the controller box, a copy of the system blueprint drawn by Verette’s father, and an original brass sprinkler head inscribed with his name, “she was thrilled,” Piper said. 

A casual conversation ensued, and Piper and Glenn Verette discovered they had something in common: Both had attended St. Pius X Catholic School in the neighborhood. 

“We shared several stories about our times there, and he eventually asked, ‘How is the school doing?’” Piper said. “I told him the school was struggling mightily. Many parishioners, students, and parents are praying fervently for the sustainment of the school in these difficult times.”

If ever the water that sprang from an in-ground sprinkler system could be considered holy, then surely this was one of those times. It was then that Kim Verette looked at Piper and said she would like to donate $1 million to the school. 

“I immediately felt a miracle had occurred,” Piper said. The Holy Spirit had answered their prayers by “bringing highly improbable circumstances together.”

Funds from the $1 million endowment will go toward increasing teacher salaries by $4,000 a year to make them more competitive with public schools, said Father Pat O’Brien, pastor of St. Pius X Catholic Church

As with many Catholic schools, tuition covers only teacher pay, the priest said, “So everything else comes from either the parish or gifts or from me begging, pleading.”

Father Pat O'Brien of St. Pius X
Father Pat O’Brien of St. Pius X Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

“This type of gift is transformational for St. Pius X Catholic School,” said Marti West, superintendent of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of San Antonio. “It allows them flexibility in their budget to not only cover their teacher salary expense, but to also increase those salaries. Historically, teachers in Catholic Schools were members of religious orders, including religious sisters and priests, who often earned lower salaries consistent with their vocational calling.”

The gift from the Verettes came as a complete surprise to O’Brien. “Those people you would never even approach because the whole world is asking them for money,” he said. “For it to go about this way, it’s as we all have all been saying — the answer to prayers.”

The gift to St. Pius X also will be used to reduce tuition for parishioner families whose children attend the pre-K-8th grade school and upgrade facilities in the 64-year-old school building.

Father Pat O'Brien of St. Pius X greets students during lunch along with his schnauzer, Gabby.
Father Pat O’Brien of St. Pius X and his schnauzer, Gabby, greet students during lunch. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The Verettes’ recent generosity has also extended to other causes and charitable organizations, including Project MEND, El Paso Strong, and Restore Education. In August, they donated over $500,000 to Southside Independent School District. 

The impact of the gift to St. Pius X is multi-generational, said Piper in the video which he ends with gratitude to the Verettes, adding, “That’s my story about a miracle I never anticipated.”

Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.