PALMETTO -- Before introducing Robert Pelot as Manatee County's 2016 Distinguished Citizen at the Manatee County Fair Thursday, Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant read excerpts from letters about how Pelot's life has been one of service.
A few moments later, after an emotional Pelot had picked up his award plaque, Pelot's wife defined that service in real terms. She talked about her husband's dedication as a pharmacist and owner of Pelot's Rexall Pharmacy, 831 Manatee Ave. E., Bradenton, a family business that has been part of Manatee County history since 1883.
"People would always call after midnight wanting Robert to go to the drug store and prepare something they forgot," Donna Pelot said of her husband, a fifth-generation native of Manatee County. "He never complained. He would always go."
A man so private and reserved that he would never want to go to an award's ceremony in his honor, Pelot had to be tricked to go to the VIP tent at the Manatee County Fairgrounds, his family said.
Pelot's sister, Mary Helen Kermode, who had nominated her brother for the honor, told him that because the fair was celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, they had a photograph and display of Pelot's Pharmacy in 1883, making it older than the Manatee County Fair by 33 years.
"Yes, that's what she told me," a smiling Pelot said of his sister's trickery. "She never lied before."
Two of Robert Pelot's three daughters, Jessica Pelot and Erin Daniels, attended the event and were beaming with pride after the announcement. They both had kept the secret.
"He's the best dad we could have asked for," Jessica Pelot said of her father, a devoted Christian, lifelong member of Manatee United Methodist Church not far from his drug store and, almost as passionate, a member of the Manatee Gator Club.
Pelot's passions, other than hanging out with his pals at church and his wife's chili, are easy to recount.
"Florida Gator sports, just about everything," Daniels said. "He will watch Gator volleyball or golf."
But Pelot once wore an FSU T-shirt in front of his place of business after losing a bet.
"He always honors his commitments," George W. Hooper of Terra Ceia wrote in a letter supporting Pelot's nomination.
When you talk about the Pelot family, you are talking about Manatee County's deep history.
Ennis Johnson moved to Manatee County in 1883 and opened up a drug store which he called Manatee Drug Company, located across from the Methodist Church on 15th Street East, Robert Pelot said.
The Pelot family came to live in Manatee County around the same time.
A Pelot child married a member of the Johnson family, so history records the start of Pelot's Pharmacy as 1883, Robert Pelot said.
The pharmacy moved to Manatee Avenue East in 1939 and has been run by Pelots since.
But will there be a Pelot's Rexall Pharmacy in Bradenton 100 years from now?
Robert Pelot shook his head and said, "Not too much longer. I'm getting old."
But Jessica Pelot held out hope.
"We are hoping my sister, Sara Dasher, who is a pharmacist in Georgia, might take it over," said Jessica Pelot, who works in the drug store with her father.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter at RichardDymond.