Sunday, January 5, 2014
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On Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, Key West suddenly lost one of its most beloved and unique characters, William W. Reese Jr, age 70. Known to most as "Pepper" and to a few others as "Silly Billy from Philly," he created a memorable sight and a path full of laughter and happiness wherever he went.

He could often be spotted zooming about town with his large round sunglasses perched on his bald head and wearing a collared fishing shirt while seated upon his beloved "Rocket," a motor scooter with which he had recently and formally celebrated a very happy (and mostly safe) 25,000-mile Silver Anniversary was one of Pepper's favorite joys. He also took great pride in his home on United Street, known as "Pep's Pad," where he was frequently seen in naught but a sarong gathering mail, talking to neighbors and using his leaf blower.

Pepper was born the youngest child and only son to a large Irish Catholic family in Philadelphia. His nickname Pepper came from his family's first dog-- a likeness he had tattooed upon his tush upon the pup's death many years ago. His parents William and Elizabeth Reese and older sisters Betty, Mary and Blanche all adored and spoiled him greatly and gave him "the happiest childhood a kid could imagine." He attended Malvern Prep and La Salle University and a few other schools along the way in addition to serving in the Army Reserves.

Always hating cold and snow, Pepper quickly found his way to south Florida along with his "Wolf," the lovely Susan Reese, his wife of 15 years and the mother of his two sons, Stefan and Colby. After they divorced, Susan and the boys stayed in Jupiter. He always appreciated Susan for giving him his two boys whom he loved and adored greatly. Pepper always cherished his time with his boys, from life at the beach to camping and fishing in Jupiter and the Keys.

After Jupiter, Pepper moved to Boca Raton where he resided for more than a decade and lived for a number of years with his former girlfriend Sue Halway. From there he decided to move to Key West and start anew in the real estate and construction fields. In Key West-- the Island of Misfit Toys-- Pepper truly found home. With his irreverent sense of humor, quick wit, twinkling blue eyes and Irish charm he made a legion of friends and leaves a legacy of good times in so many hearts and minds.

He dearly loved Key West, the island's eccentric locals, the tourists, the frivolity, the silliness and in general, the "Key West way of life." He took great pride and joy in acting as the unofficial ambassador of Petronia Street at his real estate company where he had years of fun chatting up the tourists and locals wandering in and out Blue Heaven across from his office. He loved to shock and disarm people with all sorts of outlandish and outrageous comments and if you laughed and understood his humor, you became the closest of friends with him.

Pep was a ladies man. Known to bark like a dog at pretty women roaming in his territory he coined many terms for the ladies he liked, ranging from "Fluff" to "Tomato" to "Wolf." Pepper always seemed to be surrounded by tons of lovely ladies whom he always made feel beautiful and who truly adored him. He had a great way of making everyone feel special and good about themselves no matter whom they were or where they came from.

Pepper delighted in food, loved sweets of all sorts, ice cream especially, Scrapple, Tasty Pies and a good Philly Cheesesteak. He liked to watch the History Channel, Turner Classic Movies, Fox News, enjoyed being very patriotic and a staunchly liberal Republican, enjoyed jury duty, voting, giving blood to the Red Cross. He enjoyed the flavor of a strong Captain and Diet, a Perfect Manhattan, tawny Ports and after his fun ticket was punched and he gave up adult beverages, virgin Pina Coladas of all things. His favorite night was Tuesday, when he held his legendary weekly "Boys Night" party at his house where dozens showed up regularly to spend time with him and his large circle of friends.

He loved animals of all sorts, but mostly his cats he helped rescue over the years including his beloved Jake, Rocket, Bailey, Stohly, Crooked Tail and Princess Trouble. He unselfishly went to great lengths and expense to make life better for those cats and he maintains great Karma in the kitty world.

A burial at sea is planned on the morning of January 11 for Pepper and his beloved kitty, Crooked Tail, who passed a month before Pepper. Following the burial at sea will be Pepper's Irish wake and "Celebration of Life" from 3 to 5 p.m. at Salute on the Beach. All who knew and loved Pepper are invited to attend. Please wear fun, festive and happy attire.

Pepper is already deeply missed by his family and friends. Key West will always be an amazing place, but it will never quite be the same for those who knew Pep.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests you make a donation to the local Key West SPCA, which is building a special facility for cats and your donation will buy a brick in Pepper's name. Please specify William "Pepper" Reese on your gift: SPCA Key West, 5230 College Road, Key West, FL 33040 or call (305) 294-4857.