After returning from service in Vietnam, Meriden native William J. Pappas took a job in the warehouse of Fosdick Fulfillment Corp. in Wallingford at the time of the company’s founding in the mid-1960s.
Pappas’ work ethic and business acumen attracted the attention of founder Ray Fosdick, who made the Maloney High School graduate part of the management team.
“He was a hired hand who built the family’s trust,” recalled Tim Ryan, business recruitment specialist with the town of Wallingford.
By 1990, Pappas was named company president and in 1999, he bought the company, today an industry leader in the fulfillment of thousands of consumer products.
Pappas died suddenly Sunday at his home in Old Saybrook. He was 68.
Through the years, Pappas provided charitable support for organizations like Master’s Manna, the Meriden YMCA and the United Way, mentored local businesses and nonprofits and served as a director of company and nonprofit boards.
John Benigni, executive director of the Meriden Y, recalled Pappas’ commitment to sharing his business knowledge with others.
“He was not only very helpful with fundraising, he was a business consultant and helped with business decisions,” Benigni said. “My career and the Y wouldn’t be where it is without Bill Pappas. He was a mentor and a gentleman and a big supporter of the Y and me personally.”
Benigni recalled Pappas providing hot meals at charity Christmas dinners and personally shopping for thousands of dollars worth of toys.
“Any child that went to the Y at Christmas went home with a gift, sometimes two,” Benigni said. ‘Tremendous impact’
After graduating from Maloney, the Meriden native received a degree from Central Connecticut State University. Former Castle Bank founder and president Lawrence McGoldrick knew Pappas from their days at Maloney.
“He was a very big help
getting (Castle Bank) started and a great board member,” said McGoldrick. “... He was the driving force in Fosdick and owned it totally. He took on kind of his own crusades that became his passion. He was that kind of a guy. When he got into it, he got into it totally and had a tremendous impact on whatever organization he was involved in.”
A business to business product fulfillment center, Fosdick specializes in order processing and distribution. Today, the company has added e-commerce and subscription-based products and other retail merchandise to its service lineup.
Headquartered at Barnes Industrial Park North in Wallingford, the company has locations at 500 S. Broad St. in Meriden, in Berlin, Connecticut, and Reno, Nevada.
“He’s got a national business and beyond,” Ryan said. “Fosdick leases upwards of one million square feet in central Connecticut.”Community involvement
Pappas had an effervescent, likeable and generous personality, Ryan said. He recalled Pappas storing goods for nonprofits in his warehouses free of charge and other generosity. His business success is a credit to Pappas’ down-to-earth and approachable nature, Ryan said.
James Ieronimo, former executive director of the United Way of Meriden & Wallingford, recalled Pappas’ commitment to local youth.
Ten years ago, Ieronimo said he was discussing the United Way NFL Youth Clinic, and Pappas asked what happened if the organization didn’t raise enough for deserving youth. Ieronimo explained to Pappas there was a waiting list.
“Bill said, ‘I'll help. I don't want any kid on a list,’ ’’ Ieronimo recalled. “And that became the basis for the Fosdick Fulfillment support of the clinic. Since then, hundreds of youth have enjoyed an NFL experience not knowing that they had a godfather.”
In 2015, Pappas created a GoFundMe page to raise money for Master’s Manna, a food pantry and community safety net for the poor. Its goal was to raise $25,000 to buy food for the pantry and help fund other programs. He chaired the Master’s Manna board of directors at the time and was later named a board member emeritus.
“The whole thing is to spread awareness about what they do down there,” Pappas said at the time. “We're trying to get the companies to step up and take care of some of these people.”
Master’s Manna administrative services director Gail Powell said she was shocked to hear news of his death.
“He was not only a benefactor, but a mentor to the board,” Powell said. “We all had the same heart and believed, as long as there is a hungry person in Wallingford, we’re going to feed them. He used to say ‘Food is not an option, we have to make sure people have it.’ ”
Last year, Master’s Manna renamed its food pantry the Pappas Family Food Pantry at Master’s Manna in recognition of the family’s commitment to the organization.
“He’s just a giant of a man,” Powell said. “The community is going to sorely miss him.”
Pappas is survived by his wife, Susan Pappas, and their two children, Jennifer Denne and Christopher Pappas, both employed at Fosdick.
Jennifer Denne released a statement on behalf of the family.
“As the staple of our family, husband, father and grandfather, we depended on him each day for love, support and advice,” she said. “My brother and I were lucky enough to work with him each day. We saw the good at home and at work. Those lucky enough to have worked with him on one community project or another respected his commitment and dedication to our community and local agencies.”
Pappas’ children are committed to passing down their father’s devotion to his community.
“He treated the community like he treated his family and we could not be more proud of him,” the family statement said. “He left some big shoes to fill in our family. We hope to instill his commitment and dedication in his grandchildren, so they can carry on his legacy and continue to make our community a better place.”
Calling hours will be held at John J. Ferry & Sons funeral home, 88 East Main St., Thursday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., with a service at 7 p.m. Burial will be private.