Nick A. Pico, 70, of Richboro, a longtime member and business agent of Teamsters Local 107 and a tireless pursuer of self-improvement, died of lung cancer on Thursday, Sept. 20, at St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne.
The Philadelphia native joined the 5,000-member Teamsters local in 1964 at the age of 22 and began his career as a truck driver at Transcon. In the 1980s, he was elected chief shop steward at Transcon in Philadelphia, said Jackie Hopkins, Mr. Pico's secretary when he was serving as the Teamsters business agent.
With just an eighth-grade education, Mr. Pico, who was dyslexic, was proficient in math, but his reading needed work, said his wife, Cathleen. So Mr. Pico enlisted the assistance of one of his sons' high school teachers.
Mr. Pico and the teacher worked on improving his reading for several months around the time he became Local 107's business agent in 1988, his wife said.
"He wasn't too proud to ask for help," said Katie O'Donnell, one of six grandchildren. "He always wanted to make himself better."
As business agent, Mr. Pico negotiated contracts with employers, handled grievances and tackled other workplace disputes, Hopkins said. He retired from the post in 2000.
"He cared a lot about the men," said Cathleen Pico. "He cared about their welfare."
In 1996, Mr. Pico was elected Local 107's vice president, said William Hamilton, the unit's president, who called Mr. Pico a "solid Teamster."
"He understood what a Teamster was," Hamilton said. "He didn't just run for office and become an elected official. He drove a truck for 30 years and worked his way up through the ranks."
Cathleen Pico said of her husband of 49 years: "When people met him, they said he was a bull. He was quick with his mouth. He had no filter."
But he was really "a teddy bear," she said, and a lover of Frank Sinatra's music. He named his 29-foot Chaparral boat "My Way," after his favorite a Sinatra song.
In June, he had trouble breathing while on vacation with his wife on Long Beach Island. Mr. Pico was diagnosed with lung cancer that was inoperable yet thought curable, she said. He went through chemotherapy treatment in July but got so sick that he spent the rest of the month in the hospital.
On Sept. 18, doctors informed the family that the cancer had spread and that Mr. Pico had two weeks to live. Family members wanted to spare him, so they didn't tell him.
"We didn't want him to worry about it," O'Donnell said. "He was always worried about everyone else."
On the morning of Sept. 20, Mr. Pico was rushed to St. Mary, where he died surrounded by family.
In addition to his wife and grandchildren, Mr. Pico is survived by his mother Edith; son Thomas and daughter Kimberly O'Donnell; a brother and a sister.
A viewing is set for 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26, and from 8:15 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 27, at Joseph A. Fluehr III Funeral Home, 800 Newtown-Richboro Rd., Richboro. A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 27, at St. Bede the Venerable Church, 1071 Holland Rd., Holland. Entombment will be at Sunset Memorial Park, Feasterville.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Diabetes Association Greater Philadelphia chapter, 150 Monument Rd., Suite 100, Bala Cynwyd, Pa. 19004.