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Subject: Robert Newton Peck, Author of the young adult novel "A Day No Pigs Would Die", died in June


Author:
He was 92
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Date Posted: Monday, September 21, 12:00:35pm

https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-ne-robert-newton-peck-longwood-obit-20200704-qigceq7r7bfdncug53ub2dxxni-story.html

Robert Newton Peck, the author of popular Young Adult novels including “A Day No Pigs Would Die” and “Soup,” died on June 23 at his apartment in the Village on the Green senior community in Longwood. He was 92.

“He just headed for the positive,” said his wife of 25 years, Sharon “Sam” Peck. “He always headed for the light. He celebrated the kind, little people in his books.”

After serving with the Army in Italy following WWII, Peck first came to Central Florida to attend Rollins College on a football scholarship. His wife said it was a mentor at the university who convinced him to study writing.

It was also at Rollins that he met his longtime friend Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Rogers served as best man in Peck’s wedding to his first wife.

Before becoming an author, Peck worked in advertising in New York. “Even up in the city, he would dress like a cowboy,” said Sam. “He’d wear a sheepskin jacket and a Stetson hat, just to set himself apart.”

Published in 1972, “A Day No Pigs Would Die” was Peck’s debut novel. The coming-of-age story follows a young Rob Peck during a crucial age with his butcher father in rural Vermont.

While the book is generally considered to be semi-autobiographical, Peck’s early life is something of a mystery. He was born in Ticonderoga, New York, and attended high school there, but he kept the details on much of his life private. “He only admitted a few years ago that he never knew his dad,” said Sam.

“I believe the part about losing the farm was true,” said Sam. “I believe a lot of what he wrote about [in terms of animal slaughter], he really saw, the brutality he witnessed.”

Some of the brutality in “A Day No Pigs Would Die” made it a regular target for banning from schools and libraries. The American Library Association listed it as No. 16 out of the 100 most challenged books in the 1990s, just ahead of “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker.

But Peck prided himself on writing books that were appropriate for children. “He used to say over and over that his books were clean,” said Sam.

Peck was a supporter of education and often spoke at conferences and colleges. He often talked about the influence of his first teacher, Miss Kelly, in a single-room schoolhouse in Vermont.

Friend and fellow writer F. Anthony D’Alessandro remembers a time that he invited Peck to speak to a class at Valencia College. “He volunteered to do it without pay,” said D’Alessandro. “He was loyal.”

D’Alessandro, who became friends with Peck in 2002, said that he was good at giving advice on improving imagery and characterization. “‘Tony,' he said, ‘readers can’t see nervous,‘” D’Alessandro recalled. “‘Instead of telling me Bill is nervous, show me Bill biting his thumb.‘”

Though he didn’t read music, Peck played piano by ear and was known as a gregarious speaker and entertainer. Even former Sentinel staffers George Diaz and Terri Winefordner, who only knew Peck from the gym, recalled how quickly he could draw people into a conversation

“He was very funny, always a delight,” said Winefordner.

“Mr. Peck certainly had the gift of gab and I enjoyed our conversations during morning workouts at the gym,” said Diaz. “Those words he spoke often translated eloquently into print.”

Peck moved permanently to Florida in the 1970s. In his career, he published more than 65 Young Adult novels. He is preceded in death by his son, Christopher, and survived by his wife, his daughter Anne and his grandson Stephen.

Peck will be interred at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell.

In the “Something About the Author” series, Volume 108, published by the Gale Group, Peck gave a rundown of his conservative values. Near the end, he left some encouragement for aspiring writers, written in his homespun voice. “Sometimes it discourages an author when the novel he’s attempting to write isn’t quite ripening for harvest,” he said. “But it almost always eventually does.”

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