Robert G. Pepersack Sr., 61, Anne Arundel sheriff and Maryland trooper

February 18, 2003|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Former Anne Arundel County Sheriff Robert G. Pepersack Sr. died of a heart attack at his Glen Burnie home Saturday morning. He was 61.

Mr. Pepersack, who served as sheriff from 1990 to 1994 after defeating one of the county's longest serving incumbents, had been shoveling snow in front of his house before he collapsed indoors, said Julie Pepersack, his wife of 23 years.

Mr. Pepersack was taken by ambulance to North Arundel Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Doctors who examined him said he died of a massive heart attack. Mr. Pepersack's father also died of a heart attack at a fairly young age, Julie Pepersack said.

Anne Arundel County Republicans mourned Mr. Pepersack's death yesterday. He had been an active member of the local party for many years, and was rebuilding support in hopes of running for office in the 2006 election.

Mr. Pepersack was defeated in 1994 by George F. Johnson IV, a Democrat now in his third term as sheriff. Mr. Pepersack unsuccessfully ran last year for the House of Delegates from the county's 32nd District.

Still, the retired Maryland State Police trooper was undeterred, according to family and friends who said he planned to run for elected office again.

"I would have been very surprised if he hadn't run for office in the 2006 election cycle," said Cathleen M. Vitale, chairman of the Anne Arundel County Council and a former chairman of the county's Republican Central Committee. "Bob had a lot to offer."

Mr. Pepersack was born in Baltimore and graduated from Polytechnic Institute. His grandfather and uncle both worked in law enforcement -- his grandfather was a state trooper and his uncle was Baltimore's commissioner of corrections -- and it was their tales that led him to pursue a career with the state police, his wife said.

Mr. Pepersack's brother, Norman M. Pepersack Jr. of Perry Hall, served as Baltimore County sheriff from 1990 to 1998. Norman Pepersack lost a bid to regain his office as sheriff in November's election.

At his retirement as a state trooper in 1990, Mr. Pepersack was a sergeant in charge of the department's handgun licensing division. As a young trooper, Mr. Pepersack attended Loyola College, graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in sociology in 1978.

After Mr. Pepersack defeated long-serving Sheriff William R. Huggins in the 1990 election, he reorganized and modernized the sheriff's department. He also advised officials on security installations at the remodeled Anne Arundel County Circuit Court in Annapolis.

"In his role as sheriff, he made the operation more professional and put more training into place," Ms. Vitale said. "Sheriff Johnson is benefiting from a lot of what Pepersack put in place."

Mr. Pepersack also came under fire for his management of the sheriff's department. Critics complained that he overspent his budget and conducted illegal criminal checks of prospective tenants at his rental properties. Still, those who supported Mr. Pepersack in the 1994 election said his loss shocked many.

"He tried to bring some order and some discipline to the operation. Politics is a lot about perception and not about reality," said C. Edward Middlebrooks, county council vice chairman and former state senator.

Mr. Pepersack was an avid coin collector and world traveler. He had traveled with his wife to Australia and the former Soviet Union several times. "We packed a lot into 23 years," Julie Pepersack said.

A viewing will be held from 3 to 9 p.m. tomorrow at Singleton Funeral Home, 1 Second Ave., Glen Burnie. A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Thursday at the Heritage Community Church, 8146 Quarterfield Road, Severn..

He is also survived by a son, Robert G. Pepersack Jr. of Baltimore; two daughters, Patricia Haight of Glen Burnie and Cheryl Wollenweber of Abingdon; a brother, Carl B. Pepersack of Kingsville; and five grandchildren.

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