Scott Irving Peek, Sr.
January 5, 1927 – November 10, 2020
Scott I. Peek, born January 5, 1927, died on November 10, 2020, peacefully in his sleep, his near 94 years of age finally overcoming his engaging spirit. Known by various relatives and friends as Scotty, Dad, Dude, Daddio, Pa, Grampy, Uncle Scotty or Uncle Scott, Bird Legs, and Papa Peek, Scott was the Ultimate Provider and People Person. Even to the end, he was always looking to support his family and friends in any way he could.
Survivors include Lillian, his wife of 65+ years; children Cathy Peek McEwen, Nancy Peek McGowan and husband Ted, Scott I. “Skipper” Peek, Jr. and wife Deidre, Rosemary Peek, and William R. “Billy” Peek and wife Stacy; grandchildren Matthew McGowan, Michael McGowan and wife Ali, Anne Marie McGowan Corpora and husband Louis, Austin McGowan, Mary McGowan, Ali Peek Wilbur and husband Eric, Jacquelyn Peek Gidel and husband Rob, Scott I. Peek, III and wife Melissa, Gabrielle Peek McFadden and husband Nick, James Peek, Dede Peek, Danny Peek, George F. Peek, II, William R. “Bo” Peek, Jr. and girlfriend Grace Robinson, Christina Peek, and Robbie Peek; and great grandchildren Kennedy McFadden, Nicholas “Bubba” McFadden, William McFadden, Robert “Tre” Gidel, III, Hadley Wilbur, Hayden Wilbur, Alexandra Wilbur, Emerson Wilbur, John Michael McGowan, Charlie McGowan, Kai Peek, and Lilliana Peek; longtime caregiver (a/k/a fourth son) Smith Cherelus; and special sister-in-law Ida Barretto Guinta. He also leaves behind many nieces, nephews, and long-time friends who have fond memories of the gregarious Scotty.
He was predeceased and welcomed with open arms by son George Francis Peek, parents Naomi and Robert Gordon Peek, and six older siblings Collins, Will Frank, Jeannette, Elizabeth, and Josephine and Joe.
Scotty was born and grew up in Jacksonville, Fla. He was the youngest of seven born to poor sharecroppers who grew watermelons, oranges, and grapefruit and raised chickens, ducks, and geese. His father later ran a filling station for a bit and during WWII worked in the local shipyard. Growing up, Scotty always worked, starting at the age of nine on a paper route with his father from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. Scotty’s responsibility was to buy the family’s bread (at eight cents a loaf). He was graduated from Landon High School in 1945, earning All-State status in football, basketball, and track. He was recruited by several colleges (including Georgia for football and North Carolina and Notre Dame for basketball) but eventually accepted a track scholarship at the University of Florida. But right out of high school, Scotty served a stint in the U.S. Merchant Marines, making three cross-Atlantic trips to Germany during World War II.
Scotty started college in 1945 at the University of Florida, but interrupted his college education for a two-year tour in the U.S. Army from 1946-1948, serving as a supply sergeant, drill instructor, and counterintelligence officer (and playing on the General’s baseball team) before returning to UF. He earned a bachelor's degree in physical education, health, and recreation from UF in 1952. He was a three-year varsity letterman in both football and track (and still holds two track records for sprints on the curve). He was a member of the Golden Era Gators, a group of football players from roughly 1945-1952, who at one point suffered 13 consecutive losses and who remained friends all their lives and influenced our state’s greatness. Son Skipper and his son Scott III also played for the UF football team. The Peek family is one of only three Gator families who have had three generations of scholarship football athletes and is likely the only one with the three generations sharing the same name.
Upon finishing college, Scotty went to work for U.S. Senator George A. Smathers after having campaigned for the Senator at UF. Scotty spent more than a decade in Washington, D.C., eventually being promoted to Senator Smathers’ Administrative Assistant or “A.A.” (today’s equivalent of a Senator’s Chief of Staff) and serving as executive director of the Kennedy/Johnson Presidential Campaign Committee for 13 southern states. Some referred to him as Florida’s Third Senator because of his connections, influence, and considerable networking and relationship-building skills. He was a founder and first chairman of the Quorum Club, now known as the 116 Club, an exclusive club on Capitol Hill frequented by Members of Congress, staffers, and lobbyists. It was on the Hill that Scotty met sweet, beautiful Lillian Barretto, who worked for another Senator. She became the love of his life and mother of his six children. Together they exemplified perfect spousal love and family devotion.
Senator Smathers’ son Bruce Smathers, a former Florida Secretary of State, credited Scotty with helping to make his father so successful as a Congressional leader and advisor to Presidents. “Scotty was my father’s right arm . . . his eyes and his ears, who always was on top of every issue and every matter of importance,” he said. “Scotty was always the one who understood everything and kept my father and his family on the right path. If there was ever a question or a problem, my mother would call Scotty for an answer. He was part of our family.”
Senator Bill Nelson, once an intern on Scotty’s staff, likewise complimented Scotty’s capabilities. "For over a half century I have known Scott Peek as a friend, an advisor and as a ‘can do’ person in the public arena. When I served as a college intern in Senator Smathers’ office, I marveled at his skill as a ‘mover and shaker’ as the Senator’s right hand,” he said. “Many years later that same skill was used for the University of Florida. I am one of multitudes who have been the beneficiary of his friendship."
One of Scotty’s proudest memories in politics was accompanying Vice President Lyndon Johnson to St. Augustine for the 400th anniversary celebration of America’s oldest city, during the Civil Rights movement. His job was to help bridge a rift between leaders of the local NAACP chapter, who were threatening to picket the celebration, and city leaders. He asked the NAACP leaders what they wanted. Among other things, they wanted a table at the celebratory dinner, and up front. Scotty made it happen with not one but two tables. Scotty and Lillian sat at the only integrated table at the dinner.
Faced with the challenge of supporting a big family on a government salary, Scotty moved everyone to Miami to go to work in the private sector at his own public relations firm, The ScoPe Co., which counted among its clients the start-up Miami Dolphins. From there, the family settled in Tampa in 1970. In Tampa, Scotty worked in various information technology or interactive technology, consulting, and real estate businesses.
The rest of his work life, until he was near 90, was spent serving his beloved Gator Nation. He spent several decades in various capacities for the UF Foundation, including Director of Regional Development for the South Florida region, Director for Development for the College of Engineering, and Director of Development for Major Gifts. On the basis of his lifetime devotion to UF, he was honored by three UF Presidents for his distinguished service. He was also welcomed as a member of Florida Blue Key. Even to the end he spoke of the need to raise more money for UF. In 2017, he mused that he wanted to do more for UF. When asked why he doesn’t just sit back and enjoy retirement, he said, “It’s hard for me to let it go. Like a newborn, I want to keep cuddling it.”
Scotty’s sweet, big heart loved, in order: Jesus, Lillian, his children, grands, great grands, and extended family (including his children’s friends), his friends, the Gators, and our country. (He is no doubt thrilled that Gator Coach Dan Mullen tweeted about him on Nov. 11th.)
As the outpouring of sentiments from family and friends in recent days attests, he was a hard-working man with a fun sense of humor and who was wholeheartedly devoted to his family and friends and delighted to be of service to them. Indeed, his greatest gift was his other-centeredness, meaning concern for others and how he could help them or provide for them, especially his immediate family. He had a gift of recognizing anyone he met — recognizing not just their face, but their “being.” He remembered names of most everyone he met, even at the end when his memory was challenged. All his life, he was never dismissive or indifferent to anyone, including people that most of us take for granted, folks like barbers, nurses, cashiers at Publix, and wait staff at restaurants. He wanted to know their backstories. This gift, his natural and genuine care for others, was a big reason he was so well liked by all. That he held on at the end like a cat with nine lives (defeating colon cancer at age 89, shingles, pneumonia, and other old-age maladies) demonstrated his desire to provide support for Lillian and the rest of his family. He always asked if he could do something for you; examples of his standard commodities were “let me make some calls for you, let me put you in touch with [his connection to your mission], need any money?, let me buy dinner, let me make some calls and help you get that job.” He even bought lottery tickets so he could hit the jackpot and, he said, “spread it around but first give to the church.” “Scotty was a phenomenon, one of those rare people you can always count on for good advice, wise counsel, encouragement, and anything else you needed,” said Dr. John V. Lombardi, UF President Emeritus. One granddaughter described Scotty as “one of the most selfless examples of a human I’ve ever met. The definition of a Godly man.”
Scotty’s legacy lives on in his big family. As long as there are Peeks roaming the earth, you will see his big smile, kindness, and giving, supportive spirit in them. A frequent visiting nurse summed up Scotty this way: “He truly was an amazing gentleman, not only emotionally and physically and intellectually, but most of all as a warm and loving father. His having raised such a truly kind and dedicated family is the sign of a GREAT man!”
One of Scotty’s favorite phrases was “don’t rush the monkey and you’ll get a better show.” He was in no rush to leave his family and friends and gave us a great show, but we are confident he is exactly where he wants to be now, with Jesus.
The family thanks Smith (“Smitty” or “Bob” or “My Friend” — depending on what Scotty wanted to call him that day) for the constant TLC he gave Scotty the last four years. Smith is truly an angel in the guise of a caregiver. The family also thanks Aegean Home Health Care for allowing Smith to be by Scotty’s side and for the other superb caregivers who subbed in when Smith took a rare day off.
The family will greet visitors and pray together on Sunday, November 15, 2020, at Christ the King Catholic Church, 821 S. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, FL 33609, from 3-4:30 p.m. The funeral Mass will be held Monday, November 16, 2020, at Christ the King at 10 a.m. A reception will follow in the parish’s McLoughlin Center. There will be social distancing, and masks are suggested. The Mass will also be live streamed at https://vimeo.com/478102207. Whether attending in church or virtually, Scotty would be pleased if you wore something orange and/or blue.
Donations may be made in Scotty’s memory to the Scott I. Peek Florida Opportunity Scholarship Endowment (Fund 017659), UF Foundation, Inc., PO Box 14425, Gainesville, FL 32604-9949. Ever the provider, even to strangers, Scotty was passionate about his endowment’s purpose: to provide scholarships for first-generation college students.
Sunday, November 15, 2020
Monday, November 16, 2020
Scott Irving Peek, Sr.
November 16, 2020
Your thoughtfulness to provide all to see livestream what a lovely service in honor of Scott Peek, Husband Dad and Grandpa . Your family is a testament to such wonderful parents and each and every one of you are their light.
The Oppenheim family (easier said) send our thoughts and prayers to all the Peeks and please know that we love you and care deeply.
G d Bless
November 16, 2020
My condolences to Mr. Scotty's entire family. I supported Mr. Scotty at the UF Foundation for close to 8 years. He was one in a million. I loved hearing all of his stories from 'back in the day'. He was such a humble man and was always concerned about others. He was companionate about his work at the University of Florida and wanted to make sure First Generation Students were well taken care of.
My prayers to the family as you mourn the loss of such a great man. What an amazing legacy he has left behind. He will be greatly missed.
November 14, 2020
Scotty loved the University of Florida, and the University of Florida loved him. He embraced the Gator Nation and touched the lives of many friends and colleagues during his tenure at UF.
Through his efforts and the support of loyal, committed alumni and friends, the UF rankings continue to rise, and today we’re ranked the #6 best public university in the nation. He left an indelible mark on his university, and UF will continue to benefit for years to come.
November 14, 2020
The award winning PBS Documentary George A. Smathers – A Friend of Presidents, describes my father as Florida’s most influential United States Senator in the 20th Century.
What made George Smathers not just a close friend, but also a trusted advisor to presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, was not only his own innate skills and abilities. The man who helped make my father be so successful as a Congressional leader and advisor to Presidents, was his Administrative Assistant, Scott I. Peek. Scotty was my father’s right arm, his eyes and his ears, who always was on top of every issue and every matter of importance.
To the Smathers’ family, Scotty was always the one who understood everything, and kept my father and his family on the right path. If there was ever a question or a problem, my mother, Rosemary, would call Scotty for an answer. He was part of our family. Scotty is also remembered by members of my father’s staff as one who was not only guiding “the Senator," but also looking out for and caring for them. One former staffer called me to tell me of his passing. She was in tears as Scotty, whom she had first known over fifty years ago, was still looking out for her in her old age. Scotty still was her caring “boss” and friend.
You can still see Scotty advising my father, captured forever in a photograph in that PBS documentary.
For those who knew Scotty, it does not take much imagination to envision Scotty’s success in his new role--as a trusted and skilled advisor…to St. Peter and the Heavenly Host.
Scotty will be missed by the Smathers family as he is by others, not just as a highly intelligent, uniquely skillful and trusted advisor, but most importantly, as a dedicated and loyal friend to all who knew him.
To Lillian and Scotty’s family, the Smathers family gives you our thanks for Scotty’s life, and our prayerful best wishes to you, as we remember Scotty. May God bestow his mercy, grace and blessings on Scotty Peek and his family.
November 13, 2020
Dearest Lillian, Cathy, Nancy, Skipper, Rosemary, and Bill,
Our family hit the jackpot when we moved into the house directly across the street from you, back in 1972. We had the privilege of sharing wonderful times with your family as well as a few activities better left unmentioned (the kids were teenagers, after all).
Scottie was a role model---a hardworking, devoted husband and father, and fun to be around. We'll miss that Gator smile!
Much love to you all,
Dede, Debbie,Deanna, Janice, Mary Beth, and Charlie Craig
November 13, 2020
From all of us at Choate Construction we wish you and your family well during this time and know you are all in our prayers.