One of Corbin’s most prominent businessmen, civic leaders and generous patrons died suddenly Sunday.
Bill Hoover, owner and long-time President of Pepsi Cola Bottling Company of Corbin, died at the age of 72 during a weekend golf outing with friends in Louisville.
Aside from his business success, Hoover is generally considered one of the most prolific philanthropists in the history of the city. He was particularly keen on projects that aided and improved the Corbin Independent School System, but his generosity was by no means limited to the schools.
“He’s the biggest giver I’ve ever known,” said Terry Joe Martin, a local businessman and retired Whayne Supply executive who was a personal friend of Hoover’s. The two were charter members of the Corbin Varsity Club, an organization founded to benefit varsity athletics in the Corbin schools.
“Whatever was needed, he was always ready to do his share, and then go above and beyond that,” Martin said. “He was the most positive, supportive person you could think of. He was someone that was always looking to the future, not in the rearview mirror. People will never realize all the things he did for this community.”
Former Corbin Mayor Amos Miller, who also served as the city’s Director of Parks and Recreation for 32 years, said Hoover preferred to be a quiet force behind his good deeds and altruism. Miller recounted how, annually, Hoover would buy shoes for children who would come out for the school football teams. Miller was a coach at East Ward School for 13 years, and he coached Hoover as a young teen. The two became lifelong friends thereafter.
“I’d get the shoe sizes, and he’d buy them shoes because many of them couldn’t afford them,” Miller said. “He never told anybody that. Most of them thought it was me. I’d tell them it was a friend. He did so many things. People just don’t realize what he meant to this community.”
Miller said Hoover was instrumental in the construction of the concession stands and restrooms at both Miller Park (West Corbin Park at that time) and Rotary Park. He also played a large role in the construction of Corbin’s baseball and softball fields, track complex, tennis courts and the Ossie Burch Fieldhouse — an indoor training and practice facility on the Corbin High School campus.
A common theme with Hoover is the extent to which he’d shun credit or public acknowledgment of the projects he supported.
“His biggest concern, I think, is that he didn’t want to act like he was bigger or better than anyone else,” Miller said. “You don’t find too many people with a giving heart that want absolutely nothing in return. It’s a marvelous thing to have someone who cares that much about people, and will do so much for other people.”
“There’s not too many people like Bill Hoover left in this world,” Miller added.
Hoover was attending military school away from Corbin when he moved back at the age of 13 and enrolled at East Ward. He graduate from Corbin High School in 1966 and was a member of the 1965-66 varsity basketball team that will be inducted in the Corbin Varsity Club Hall of Fame this year.
At the age of 28, Hoover tried out for the University of Kentucky football team, and made it as a walk-on, but returned home soon thereafter when his grandmother and Pepsi Cola Bottling Company founder, Katherine Day, fell ill. He was an integral part of the day-to-day operations of the company from then on.
Bob Terrell, a retired Ford Motor Company Executive and former Economic Development Director for the city of Corbin, characterized Hoover as a “quiet leader” who could seemingly get just about any task or project accomplished.
“He reached out to help so many people and we are all going to miss him very much,” Terrell said. “Our community has been so blessed to have a person like Bill Hoover. He’s going to be remembered for a long, long time for his greatness and the positive things he did in this town.”
Pepsi Cola Bottling Company of Corbin entered its 81st year of operation this year. It’s employs about 250 people, and has been family owned for the entirety of its existence.
In a written statement, Mary Walker and Diana Gabay — Hoover’s sisters who are currently co-owners and both still serve as presidents of the company — and brother Vin Hoover, said Bill Hoover will be greatly missed for many reasons, not least of which is that he “had a special talent for making everyone feel like part of the family.”
“This company has been a large part of many of our lives, and we are happy to have worked together, laughed together, and shared successes and failures together with Bill Hoover,” they wrote. “He was a wonderful person to work with and for, and he will be remembered for his warm heart and generous nature.”
Hoover was almost legendary in Corbin for his thoughtfulness and steadfastness to his friends and good acquaintances.
“Bill will always be remembered and his spirit will always be with our company. We will honor this memory by dedicating ourselves to continuing the work he loved so much.”
Funeral arrangement, which were not finalized by press time, are being handled by Vankirk-Grisell Funeral Home in Corbin. Check online at vankirkgrisellfuneralhome.com for more details.