Local spice broker and one-time state record holder for picking peppers, Pete Phifer, died Wednesday at the Saint Fiacre nursing home in midtown. He was 91.
Mr. Phifer was known later in life as the owner of Phifer Grocery stores, for his many years serving on the board of directors for the Grocer’s Association, and his philanthropic activities on behalf of local nonprofits and public service programs. However, as a young man he gained notoriety when he picked a quarter bushel of peppers in a record setting two minutes, a record that stood for over 50 years.
The day after his record was broken, he was interviewed by a reporter from this newspaper. “People are always asking me how many peppers I picked. I have no idea. The contest wasn’t about the number it was about the weight. I picked nearly 10 pounds of peppers in two minutes. We didn’t count them. After they were weighed they went into a pile for pickling along with all the other peppers from that field.”
A plaque celebrating Mr. Phifer’s record hangs outside the horticulture department at the north county technical college. The tribute was penned by English professor Penelope Poivre, now retired. Professor Poivre also tells us that a posy of peppers appeared on the plaque Thursday morning, presumably in honer of Mr. Phifer. .
Pete Phifer’s wife, Patty, died 10 years ago at age 80. He is survived by his son Parker, 62, and his daughter Polly, 58.