Harry L. Crisp II, Chairman and CEO of Pepsi MidAmerica in Marion, will receive the prestigious HerrinFesta Italiana Lifetime Achievement Award during the 26th annual event in May.
The award will be presented during the Mayor’s HerrinFesta Honoree Banquet on May 24 at the Herrin Elks Club, and Crisp will ride in the Festa Grand Parade on May 28.
A Marion native, Crisp attended Marion schools, the Culver Academies in Culver, Ind. – which honored him as its “Graduate of the Year” in 2006 — the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He has served on The Culver Educational Foundation’s Board of Directors for more than a quarter-century.
He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1956, and was named Outstanding Marine in his boot camp platoon. He also was the high shooter on the range among his 5,000 fellow Marines in boot camp. He was honorably discharged in 1958.
Harry L. – as he is known to his many friends – was raised in the soft drink business that his dad, Harry L. Crisp Sr., started in 1936. Harry L. learned the business literally from the ground floor up, sweeping the plant floor as a child. After he returned from the service, he proceeded to learn every aspect of the business – digging post holes for Pepsi signs, sorting bottles, driving semi-tractor trailers, operating bottle washers and delivering products as a route salesman.
When his Dad passed away in 1975, Harry L. took the reins of the company. At the time, the company had a singular focus and its territory encompassed 21 counties. Under his leadership, through internal growth and acquisitions, Pepsi MidAmerica now stretches into five states and employs nearly 1,000 people. Pepsi MidAmerica distributes more than 400 brands, including Pepsi, Mountain Dew, 7-Up and Dr Pepper, Starbucks, Hawaiian Punch, Lipton Iced Tea, Dole juices, Gatorade, Crush Flavors, Schwepps, Ocean Spray Juices, Sobe Lifewaters and the company’s branded water, Crisp & Clear.
Harry L. opened Crisp Container, also in Marion, in 1996; it manufactures plastic bottles for Pepsi MidAmerica and other companies. In addition, since 2008, Pepsi MidAmerica has acquired 33 snack and soft drink vending companies.
In addition to the significant economic impact of his company on Southern Illinois, Harry L. has always placed a priority on public service. He has supported education at all levels and many local improvements, and served on a wide array of boards, including chairing the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) for nearly a decade. Buildings and facilities on college campuses and in many communities bear the Crisp name – including the ICCB’s headquarters in Springfield — reflecting a commitment to philanthropy and community service that improves the lives of others.
Together with his late wife of nearly 48 years, Rosemary Berkel Crisp, Harry L. also has been a major supporter of health initiatives. He also has generously shared his time and treasure with the Culver Academies and the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, among many others.
He also is well-known for his civic involvement – including the Williamson County Shriners, Marion Rotary Club and the St. Louis Regional Council Boy Scouts Executive Board – and his support of events throughout Southern Illinois, including HerrinFesta Italiana and the Du Quoin State Fair.
“I’ve enjoyed public service enormously because I love to help people,” he said. “God put us here to try to make this a better place.”
Harry L. has often said that his greatest blessing is his family, which includes six children – Cyndi, Cathy, Cheryl, Carole, Lee and Cara – and 18 grand-children.