Business leader was also avid supporter of the arts
By MARTY CLEAR
Published January 12, 2007
DAVIS ISLANDS - For many years, Irvin Peckett was responsible for getting his neighbors to work on time.
Decades ago, Mr. Peckett and friend Lucille Falk started taking morning walks, following the same 5-mile route around Davis Islands every day. Over the years, other friends joined in, until the informal walking club included five people.
Along the route, neighbors would sit on their front porches and wave as the group walked by, or watch for it through the windows as they ate breakfast.
"When people saw them walk by, they knew it was time to take a shower and get to work," said Mr. Peckett's wife, Carol. "Irv wanted to go somewhere else to walk, but Lucille said, 'We can't do that; people are depending on us.' "
Mr. Peckett passed away Jan. 3 from complications of a stroke in May. He was 85.
He was a Tampa native, the son of Romanian immigrants. He never graduated from college and had little formal business training, but he became one of the city's most successful businessmen.
He founded, owned and operated two local businesses that expanded into statewide operations, which he eventually sold to the company that is now Sara Lee Corp.
Mr. Peckett graduated from Hillsborough High School and enlisted in the Army during World War II. He spent the war years serving in the financial office at Tampa's Drew Field.
After the war, he met a man who had retired after running a commercial cleaning business in Ohio. Mr. Peckett learned there was no equivalent business in Tampa and persuaded the man to come out of retirement, teach him the business and become his partner.
Before long, Mr. Peckett's companies, Florida Cleaning Service and Oxford Cleaning Service, were providing window washing and janitorial service for most of Tampa's major companies and buildings, and to clients around Florida.
Although he was a hard worker with a natural business instinct, Mr. Peckett wasn't obsessed with work. He sold his companies and retired more than 30 years ago, while he was still in his 50s.
But retirement didn't slow him down. He indulged his passion for woodworking by building an elaborate shop in his home.
His specialty was marquetry, an intricate technique for creating pictures by using woods of varying colors and textures.
"Usually I'd draw the pictures, and he'd turn them into marquetry," his wife said.
Shortly after retirement, Mr. Peckett offered his business expertise to Alice People, a respected, successful theater company in Tampa. He served as the company's first president, and helped put the fledgling group on solid financial footing during its early years.
"He went to them and said, 'Let me see your checkbook,' and they said, 'We don't have a checkbook', " his wife recalled. "So he said, 'Okay, let me see your budget,' and they said, 'We don't have a budget. We're actors'. "
But Mr. Peckett's major passion was his family. He and his wife spent much of the past 30 years traveling around the world, and almost always took their children and grandchildren with them.
He stayed very active until well into his 80s. He suffered a small stroke last year that made it difficult for him to swallow, and his health continued to deteriorate over the past seven months.
"He was just a fun guy," Carol Peckett said. "That was the best thing, and at the end it was the worst thing, because he couldn't enjoy his life anymore."
Besides his wife, Mr. Peckett is survived by his son, Chet, daughters Adela Ingersoll and Cathy Peckett, and five grandchildren.
[Last modified January 11, 2007, 09:04:35]
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