Rep. Pepino remembered as devoted public servant
Pepino had just finished his 11th term as a Republican state representative for Hillsborough District 11 and Ward 4. He previously had served as a city alderman in 1980-1985 and again in 1992-93.
House Speaker William O'Brien called Pepino “an icon in the Manchester community.”
“Leo was devoted to giving back to the Granite State that he so cherished and to veterans and law enforcement,” O'Brien said in a statement. “We will miss our beloved friend here in the State House, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family in this time of sadness.”
In a statement, Gov. John Lynch thanked Pepino for “his long service to the people of New Hampshire.”
“My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time,” the governor said.
Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas called Pepino a “true friend.” He recalled him as “somebody that was always looking to find efficiencies in government.”
After he learned of Pepino's death Friday, Gatsas pulled out a coin that Pepino had given him just before Pepino's wife of 59 years, Rita, died in 2005. “He said, 'When Rita and I are gone, you just hold onto that coin, and you'll make the right decisions,'” Gatsas recalled.
The coin, which Gatsas had tucked in his wallet, features an image of a guardian angel. “It means that I know he's watching over me,” he said.
Over his long career in public service, Pepino devoted himself to causes close to his heart.
“When he took on a cause, he was in it with both feet,” recalled Executive Councilor Raymond Wieczorek, who was Manchester's mayor when Pepino served as alderman.
And he always did his homework, Wieczorek said. “So when he was getting up to talk, you knew he was going to know what he was talking about.”
Wieczorek called Pepino “a decent human being,” and said he and his wife made “a good political couple.” They had one son, Leo E. Pepino of Goffstown, two grandchildren — and a series of big dogs that Pepino adored, he said.
“I'm going to miss him,” he said.
In the House, Pepino had served on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety, State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs, and Fish and Game and Marine Resources committees, according to the speaker's office.
After his wife suffered hospital-acquired infections while undergoing treatment for cancer, Pepino pushed for a law requiring hospitals to report such infections to the state. Lynch signed that 2006 law “in memory of Rita.”
Garth Corriveau, alderman for Manchester Ward 6, said after he was elected in 2009, he used to run into Pepino at the downtown Dunkin' Donuts. Pepino, who was a half-century older, “always had a friendly word of advice — and it was good advice, too,” he said.
Corriveau recalled Pepino also was “a very passionate advocate on behalf of veterans.”
Pepino joined the U.S. Navy in 1945 at the age of 17; he married his wife, who had enlisted in the WAVES, in 1946. They started their own trucking company, R&L Transportation, in 1949.
Pepino also had worked as a bailiff at Hillsborough County Superior Court for 12 years, leaving that position in 1996.
New Hampshire Republican State Committee Chairman Wayne MacDonald said in a statement, “Leo spent most of his life committed to public service. ... He remained a strong voice for his constituents, veterans and law enforcement during his 11 terms in the House. He will be missed by all.”
A Roman Catholic, Pepino pushed for pro-life legislation over the years. In the 2012 session, he co-sponsored a measure to include a fetus in the definition of “another” in such criminal offenses as murder, manslaughter, negligent homicide and causing or aiding suicide.
Lynch vetoed that bill earlier this month, and on Wednesday, the House failed to override his veto.
This year, Pepino was the prime sponsor of a measure requiring flags purchased with state funds or displayed in state facilities to be manufactured in the United States. Lynch signed the bill into law last month, and it takes effect July 28.
The latest Handbook of New Hampshire Elected Officials, which features biographical information about lawmakers, listed Pepino's legislative priorities as “the budget, public safety, labor issues, tax relief, all veterans, keeping convicted felons in prison ... .”
And under “personal,” he listed:“family first values and principles; helping others; old cars.”
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