Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Kerry T. Pacifico, 95, businessman, World War II veteran, and philanthropist

Mr. Pacifico believed in giving back to the community, and did so by establishing a family scholarship foundation. To date, it has given $2.2 million to help high school seniors in Philadelphia afford college.

Kerry T. Pacifico
Kerry T. PacificoRead moreCourtesy of the Pacifico Family (custom credit)

Kerry T. Pacifico, 95, of Villanova, a businessman, World War II veteran, and philanthropist, died Monday, Dec. 2, of heart failure at Bryn Mawr Hospital.

Mr. Pacifico was the longtime president of the Pacifico Auto Group in South Philadelphia. He made his first mark as a businessman in 1954, when he established Pacifico Ford.

In 1970, he and other dealers banded together to create the South Philadelphia Auto Mall on Essington Avenue, which was a departure from the independent car dealership model. He believed the model would boost sales for all members, and it did.

At various times, he acquired Lincoln-Mercury and Hyundai dealerships for the auto group.

Mr. Pacifico received recognition for his sales achievements. He was a three-time winner of the Ford President’s Club Award and was a Ford One Hundred Club winner, an honor that recognizes the top Ford dealers in the nation.

In 2015, he was winner of the Pennsylvania Automotive Association Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedication to the automobile retailing industry and his support for the community, said communications director Melanie Stine.

“He was a wonderful man, so warm and welcoming, and he treated everyone like family,” she said.

Mr. Pacifico was president of the Auto Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia in 1964 and 1965, and served on its board for six decades starting in the 1950s. He was a trustee of the association’s foundation, which donates $1 million a year to underserved children.

Kevin Mazzucola, executive director of the association, said Mr. Pacifico was viewed as an icon by his peers. “He was a Mount Rushmore type of guy from the point of view of the retail industry in Philadelphia. He convinced everybody to put the auto mall on the map."

Mr. Pacifico believed in giving back to the community in which car purchases underwrote his success, and he understood the power of education as a springboard to a better life.

With those values in mind, he gave a $500 scholarship to a student in 1964 and continued the practice each year under the Kerry T. Pacifico Family Foundation. Since then, it has given more than $2.2 million to Philadelphia high school seniors who aspire to a college education but cannot afford it.

Mr. Pacifico hosted an annual gathering for city children under 14 called “an afternoon with Santa.” This year, he offered a Halloween party for 300 children for “candy and fun,” his family said.

Born in Philadelphia in 1924, Mr. Pacifico graduated from South Philadelphia High School. While a teenager, he worked at the family Chrysler-Plymouth dealership, the 11th Street Motor Co., in Philadelphia.

After graduating, he enlisted in the Army and was deployed to the European theater in World War II. He participated in the Battle of the Bulge and was wounded on his 21st birthday.

In October 1945, Mr. Pacifico was honorably discharged with the rank of private. He was awarded a Purple Heart for his war wound.

When not working, Mr. Pacific enjoyed golfing. He and other Ford dealers met weekly for a round of golf and dinner. He loved to travel and spend weekends at the Jersey Shore.

Warm and welcoming on the one hand, he was willful on the other. “Everything he did had a sense of purpose,” his family said.

He was married to Marie Pacifico, who died in 1982. He married Francine Frio Pacifico, who survives.

Besides his wife, he is survived by children Kerry J. and Maria; stepson William Frio; four grandchildren; and nieces and nephews. A son, Joseph J., died in 2000.

A viewing from 10 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10, at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, 1723 Race St., will be followed by a 1 p.m. Funeral Mass at the cathedral. Interment is in Calvary Cemetery, Conshohocken.