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BECC Memorial Page – Michael Pepka

We are saddened to report that Michael Pepka, longtime BECC Coin Show Chairperson, passed away on October 8, 2010 after a brief battle with cancer of the esophagus. Mike was a wonderful individual and loved managing the coin shows in January. We already miss him. A memorial service arranged by Mike's wife and family was held on October 15 in Issaquah.

Tribute to Michael read at the October 27, 2010 BECC annual banquet.

"Michael is a good Glimpse" by Greg Smith

I would do a tribute for a lot of people, but Mike is one person I honor. Mike never said a harsh word, never swore, was always upbeat, and always direct when discussing the topic at hand. I never tired of Mike, and always looked forward to his opinion on our goings on with our club. Those of you that know me know that from time-to-time I try to get under your skin, just to see what you are made of. I tried with Mike. He was a tough nut to crack. I don’t think I ever won.

I especially enjoyed his story, which usually occurred about once a year, about how he got involved with the club. He began taking his Mom, Helen, after Pat Young had died. Mike always said it only seemed like a few months passed that he became president.

Mike was a loving husband, a caring father, a devoted son, a lifelong brother, a born leader, a reluctant follower, a career engineer, and an honest individual. I appreciated getting a “glimpse” at more of Mike’s life at his memorial in Issaquah on Oct. 15. We all know Cheri from her involvement in the club, but until recently I had not met but one son. Mike and Cheri have two sons and a daughter. Mike also has a brother, and an extensive family from the amount of people that were at his memorial. Mike is well loved and will be remembered by a lot of folks.

I know when someone mentions someone’s name and I blink and my mind’s eye gives me a snapshot of that person. Mike is a good glimpse. I enjoy my visions of Mike.

Mike as president when I first walked into the club back in the mid/late 90s. I remember him standing to the left and talking smoothly about something. The topic wasn’t important, but he was well dressed with a suit and tie. He was comfortable. I think the tie was red with stripes and the shirt was blue.

Mike as an executive board member would listen intently when critical discussions were going on. Unless he had the floor, he would be quiet and cordial. He may or may not choose to speak. If he did choose to speak, it usually would be concise with concrete talking points. Again, he usually wore a suit or jacket.

Mike as coin show chairperson of course would be in a suit. I think the tie was red with stripes and the shirt was blue. Mike was in his element as a coin show chair. He made sure to get around to all the dealers. He made them all feel good. He also knew how to get past any difficulties without bending someone’s nose…which was for sure going to happen at these sorts of events. Mike always said he was a success because he would appoint someone to be responsible for the various aspects of the show so he didn’t have to do anything. In someway, that was true, but he also did a lot to ensure their success.

Mike was winner of the JP Memorial award in 2008. To most of us younger members, this is the most prestigious award we have at the club. It really means you have put out for the club. The rule of the award is that the previous year’s winner gets to announce the winner the following year. Mike did so last year when Dave Buehler was the winner. Mike would speak softly of the award and of Jim Payne. He brought the award to life. Then with pause, he would begin to talk about the winner. Mike never prepared a speech like I have done today. The words would just come.

Mike, as a collector that also purchased items from me. This will be my favorite memory of Mike.  Watching him pull money from every pocket, and having pockets where most of us didn’t. God, it was just so comical. It got to be game. I would try to save up enough stuff where I was sure that there would be no way he could have enough WADDAGE to carry it. It was a game I never won.

Mike was also involved with the Puyallup Fair. As the BECC had managed this for many years, Mike would obtain the foreign coins to hand out to the people, mostly kids that would stop by. He enjoyed the activity, and I appreciated that he would track down the amount needed. In 2009 or maybe 2008 he was doing a bunch of work on a property and we were having difficulty connecting. It got to the final few days, and Mike had been or was out of town. Dave Buehler came to my rescue and helped me procure about 40 pounds of coins. Mike didn’t let me down, he had the coins and had contacted me on the morning of the first day asking when we could meet. I told him that it was taken care of. He paused, and I could almost see his face as he kind of scrunched back and said, “You are a resourceful guy aren’t you.”

Mike was also a nanotechy that lit up and quickly spun past my fleeting knowledge of the subject. It was good to hear his sister in law speak of Mike at the memorial, of his being a brain, of his being super intelligent, and how he lit up with delight when discussing this topic. Mike was not easily distracted, but more than once I would bring up nanotechnology to distract him from some business at hand.

Mike told me much earlier this year of his impending death. It was a late spring day that I had gotten together with him for lunch. I have to say he did catch me off guard. As he told me of his impending death and ranting about dying and doctors and medicine, I didn’t connect the dots. After about 20 minutes of his telling me of his plight, but with me not really understanding, I asked Mike to go for a walk along the Duwamish River with me. We didn’t get far, when I stopped him and ask why all the talk about dying. As Mike liked to do when something was obvious, he leaned back and with a quizzical look, said; “Weren’t you listening? I’m dying.” He approached death as I figure most engineers approach death. Very factual, but not defeated. Disheartened but not dejected. We talked about how he wished to handle his death. He wanted to stave off telling anyone for as long as possible. WHY? Because he didn’t want THAT sort of attention. And that was Mike. He was a very caring person.

My mind’s eye glimpse of Mike is several with only happiness and colorful visual representations. I am sad that he is no longer with us in our decisions, but only have to close my eyes for a moment to see a glimpse of his jovial self in one of these instances in my mind. Mike was a character, a friend, and a part of the backbone of this club who will surely be missed at many turns.

Cheri, with all my heart, I wish you well in the months and years ahead. I hope that you stay in touch with the club and myself, and hope that you will not hesitate to call on me if you need anything. You are a piece of the fabric of our goofy little family we have knitted together over the past many years.

— Greg