Kennewick's Duane 'Pep' Pepiot dies from cancer, remembered for soup recipe

A Kennewick man known for his community service work will be remembered by family and friends for the red chili pepper apron he wore to make his locally famous bean soup.

Duane Pepiot, fondly known as "Pep," died Tuesday from cancer at the age of 82.

His apron will be placed on the altar at his funeral as a tribute to his efforts to make the perfect 11 1/2 bean soup, packets of which are sold every year at Kennewick First United Methodist Church's annual Holly Daze bazaar.

Pepiot's soup, sold as a dry mix, has been popular with bazaar-goers for years. He sold more than 17 tons of beans and raised more than $70,000 for the church in 20 years, said daughter Rene Norman of Kennewick.

The Herald profiled Pepiot in December when his health started to fail and he began to train his family to prepare the homemade soup recipe, which had taken him and his wife, Inie, almost a year to develop.

While his cancer diagnosis and related health issues made it harder for him to keep up with the soup-making operation, he wanted his secret recipe to outlive him.

"It's been a passion. It's been fun to do," he told the Herald in December. "I wouldn't want to do anything else. I've never ever not wanted to do it. It's just so much fun."

Pepiot taught his granddaughter, Katie Norman-Suitonu of Kennewick, the recipe so that she would be prepared for the bazaar in October.

Norman-Suitonu "loved her papa," Norman said. "She took care of him the entire time he was sick. She was his angel."

But soup wasn't the only way Pepiot gave back to the community.

He was a member of the Kennewick Kiwanis Club since 1962 and regularly volunteered at the Benton-Franklin Fair and Water Follies.

As a retired physical therapist, he also volunteered to help athletes on Kennewick High School's sport teams and "went to every Lions game," Norman said.

He also campaigned tirelessly to pass legislation to build Kennewick General Hospital, for which he and his wife were inducted into the hospital's Hometown Heroes Society, according to the hospital's website.

In 1977, Pepiot was named Kennewick's Man of the Year for his community service.

"He was a well-known and much-loved community leader, instrumental in development of KGH and the Cancer Center," said Kirk Williamson, secretary of the Kennewick Past Men of the Year Club, in an email to the Herald.

Pepiot lived his life with the belief that he could always be of help to others and in return, he received support from everyone else, Norman said.

"It's like the ripple effect. And he left a really great ripple," Norman said.

Pepiot is survived by his wife, three children, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Funeral services are scheduled for 1 p.m. June 29 at the First United Methodist Church, 2 S. Dayton St., Kennewick.

The family plans to prepare a batch of Pep's soup for the reception following the service.

-- Eleanor Cummins: 582-1515; intern@tricityherald.com