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Polly Pepin, widow of Art Pepin, dies at age 87

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 12:43 AM
TAMPA -

Polly Virginia Pepin, longtime wife of philanthropist and beer distributor Art Pepin, died Thursday.

She was 87 and died peacefully at her Temple Terrace home, surrounded by family and friends.

Polly Pepin and her husband were married 50 years when he died in 2000. Together they raised four children and made sizable donations to local institutions including the University of Tampa and then-University Community Hospital.

"My mom was wonderful," Jill Pepin said. "She was behind my dad all the way. They were best friends. Everything he did, she did with him."

The Pepin Heart and Vascular Institute at University Community Hospital received a $1 million donation in 1989.

UT's soccer teams play at Art and Polly Pepin Stadium.

Before the Challenge High School even opened, it changed its name to Pepin Academy after borrowing $50,000 interest-free from the Pepins. Federal charter start-up money then was used to repay the loan.

The Pepins donated because they wanted to reciprocate the love Tampa gave them, Jill Pepin said.

"Tampa gave us a great life, and that's why my father wanted to give back – and my mother also," she said.

Art Pepin, who also was a longtime booster of professional and amateur sports in Florida, ran Pepin Distributing Co. for more than two decades before passing it along to his son, Tom.

Art Pepin also was known for lavish parties at his home, where there was a swimming pool in the shape of a Michelob bottle. He was known by his friends as Tampa's "Beer Man."

Familiar faces from Pepin gatherings included: Bob Hope, Gene Autry, James Garner, Glen Campbell and Steve Spurrier.

"He'd show up at the house with 50 people unannounced, and she'd get food ready," Jill Pepin said of her parents. "She was a very good partner. Never once did I hear them argue. She was full of life. She's with him now – the love of her life."

The Pepin charities were varied. Among recipients were the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Prevent Blindness America, the Deaf Service Center, MacDonald Training Center, Special Olympics, Martin Luther King Scholarship Fund, the USO, the American Heart Association, Tampa firefighters, the March of Dimes, Tampa Jaycees, the University of Florida and UT.

"Mr. Pepin, when he was alive, was not only a very generous man but Polly was kind of a sidekick," said Darlene Sonneveldt, a human resources administrator for Pepin Distributing. "She was right there with him in all they did. They made all the decisions together. They were very close.

"Her personality – she was a very unique lady. She was always laughing, she was fun-loving. Polly was one of the nicest ladies I know – even toward the end when she was so ill."

In addition to her children, the Westport, N.Y., native leaves behind 10 grandchildren.

A celebration of her life will be held 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at TPepin's Hospitality Centre, 4121 N. 50th St.

In lieu of flowers the family requests donations to Pepin Heart Institute, 3100 E. Fletcher Ave.; Pepin Academies, 3916 E. Hillsborough Ave.; or Everyday Blessings, 13129 St. Francis Lane in Thonotosassa in honor of Polly V. Pepin.


Information from Tribune archives was used in this report. jpoltilove@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7691

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