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Mario Pastega : Owner of Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. Believes, “If Life has been good to you, you have to give something back”

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You’ve got to have faith in what you’re doing, you’ve got to be honest, and work hard. Nothing comes easy,” — sound words of advice from Mario Pastega, a winner within our community as well as a winner in life. Pastega is not only a successful business owner, but also an extremely giving and charitable individual, who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to help fund the construction of what is now the Mario Pastega House at the Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center. The Mario Pastega House is a “home away from home” for out-of-town patients and their families traveling to Corvallis for specialized medical care.

Ninety year-old Pastega is also the owner of the Pepsi Cola Bottling Companies in Corvallis, Tillamook, and Medford. He has been in the bottling industry since 1948, when he purchased his first Pepsi plant in Klamath Falls from his brother-in-law. In 1961 he purchased the one in Corvallis, and continued expanding his business legacy from there.

“I still work every day; I like the business, and it’s been good to me. It hasn’t always been easy, but when you go through life there’s always a speed bump that slows you down,” he said.

Pastega grew up in Weed, Calif., during the Depression. As a child, he had the same aspirations that many young children had at that time: to be a fireman or police officer. At age 12, he worked for his father, Romano Pastega, in his father’s shoe repair shop. “I didn’t have any toys or anything like that, like the kids have now,” Pastega said, “I can remember when I got my first scooter. People take that for granted now.”

With an early exposure to strong work ethics, Pastega went on to work in a district attorney’s office. From there he moved up to a clerk of the courts, then became the court reporter, taking down testimonies. “If my brother-in-law hadn’t come, I’d probably still be doing it,” he said.

Mario and wife Alma Pastega recently celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary in April of 2006. They originally had five children, but one of their two daughters, Emilie Jo, died in May 1968 at the age of 23. Pastega said losing his daughter was probably the most traumatic thing that has ever happened to him. “First you can’t cope with it. Then you pray a lot. And you think of the good things, of the good times you had together,” he said. “I lost my father and my mother, which was very traumatic, too. But when you lose somebody who’s 23 years old, that’s a whole different scenario.”

Pastega’s surviving children include daughter Lisa, and three sons, Ken, Gary and Denny, who each manage one of his bottling companies. Pastega said he’s very proud that his family is continuing his legacy, following  his footsteps.

More than just a winner in business, Pastega also has been very active in the community. He has served on the board of the Grace Center, an adult daytime care facility, the school foundation board, and the hospital foundation board at Good Samaritan. In addition to donating $350,000 for the Mario Pastega House, he oversaw fundraising for the house which brought in an additional $1.5 million, with over 8,000 donations.

Pastega’s motivation for funding such a program came after a stay in a similar house in Redding, Calif., where his sister, Bianca, was hospitalized due to heart trouble. “I stayed there all the time that she was there, and it was very nice and convenient,” Pastega said. After his stay, Pastega talked to the president of the Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis, Larry Mullins, and shared his idea for the hospitality house.

Pastega finds the house very rewarding, and continues to visit it two to three times a day. “It’s very much like a home away from home. Last night when I went over there, there were about eight or nine people around the kitchen table who never knew each other before; now they’re all friends. They cook together, they console each other, and they think it’s a great place,” he said.

Anyone in Corvallis during the holiday season is sure to happen upon the Pepsi Cola Christmas light display, which is located at the Corvallis Pepsi bottling plant. Pastega began the display in 1980, and it has been enjoyed by thousands since, other than a single year when the plant was closed for construction.

The Christmas spectacular shows a wide array of lights and colorful cartoon characters. People can drive through with their families and watch their children’s eyes sparkle with both the lights and sheer joy. The characters throughout the scene were painted by Mario’s wife, Alma. The mechanized characters were created by Ole Brensdal, who worked for Pepsi until he passed away just last month.

“It’s enjoyed by young and old,” said Pastega of the display. “It’s amazing to see youngsters who have grown up and now have kids of their own go with them [to the display]. It’s very rewarding.”

Some more advice Pastega has to offer to anyone starting out in the business world is, “You’ve got to learn to be resilient. You’ve got to learn to be strong. You’ve just got to say ‘I can make it happen.’” His most important philosophy in life is: “If life’s been good to you, you have to try to help people that need help. As you go through the path of life, if you give a helping hand to a person in need, you’re going to get repaid somewhere, somehow, or someway.”

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13 Comments - (Leave a comment! »)

  • Matthew – South Carolina said:

    Pastega seems like a genuine good guy, which would make him a perfect fit if he wasn’t entirely boring. I’m not trying to diminish his work in any way, shape, or form, but you have articles about a man going from a drive-by victim to a presidential photographer, a parapalegic painting portraits with her mouth, and an armless Tae Kwon Do master. Pastega just isn’t cutting it. I salute him for rising from the depths of the Great Depression to becoming the CEO of Pepsi and all of the wonderful charity work he’s done, but he can’t compete with an armless Tae Kwon Do master. He might be noble, but people making it big and giving back to their community are a dime a dozen. If he has to make the cut, the least one could do is include quotes from people impacted by his work. That adds a certain emotional depth the article’s lacking.

    But even beyond subject matter, the direction itself gets far too unfocused. Consider the awkward, nonexistent transition from his charity work to their Christmas lights. Did that even add anything to the article except a word count? If they are actually that special to the people of the community, the article should do a better job of conveying it and toss in a few pictures so we aren’t left in the dark about how magnificent it is.

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  • Tiffany– Tennessee said:

    Of the stories I have read in your magazine this one stands out to me as we share a very similar philosophy on life. I am always inspired by successful people who believe wholeheartedly in giving something back, especially those to whom life has delivered somewhat unfair hands. Life wasn’t promised to us as a walk through the park, but it is worth the journey if you put the hard work into it. I enjoyed the piece; but I’d have preferred a bit more insight into what drives him. Overall, however, I enjoyed learning more about him as a businessman. The “to whom much is given, much is required” mantra is how I hope people see me living my own life. Some of our best lessons in life are learned by putting aside our own hangups to pay it forward to others.

  • Rick – Tennessee said:

    I know it’s a few years old, but I really enjoyed the Mario Pastega story. I know he died recently, and I’m nowhere near his age, but I still find it inspiring to see someone who grew up without the things kids take for granted these days make a name for himself. Anyway, I like what you’re trying to accomplish with your site.

  • Ty– North Carolina said:

    After reading multiple articles, I feel the goal of this online magazine is aspiring and a wonderful concept. From giving touching stories about the last moments of someone’s pet, to the restaurant review of a delicious place to eat, it gives the reader a variety of material to enjoy. And while I wish the restaurant review also went in depth with how the restaurant owner affected the community in a positive manner, it also did it’s job in creating the imagery to make me hungry. My favorite story had to be of Mario Pastega. His life’s work, from bottling Pepsi, to creating his regional medical center for people and their families out of town for receiving special medical care is a true role we can all try more to be like. A lot of people around the country, and even the wolrd, lose faith in humanity because they don’t know about the wonderful people like Mario Pastega who are making a difference in our very communities.

  • Marinana said:

    Mario Pastega is a man after my own heart. It was such a pleasure to read this article as his philosophy of “If Life has been good to you, you have to give something back” is how I’ve lived my life. In 1993 our daughter had a health issue that left us rattled. When all was said done, she was fine, but the episode left us with no doubt that we had been lucky even when so many others weren’t. So, just as Mr. Pastega did, we looked for a way to “give back”. We took on Mr. Pastega’s philosophy and made it our own and passing that philosophy on to our daughter. His accomplishments and selflessness should be an inspiration to everyone who reads this article as it was well written and painted a vivid picture for the reader. I very much enjoyed it, and by extension, Winners Within Us.

  • Josué Pastega -- Brazil said:

    Oi, sou do Brasil e tenho o sobrenome Pastega, pesquisando no Google achei, se quiser ter contato com a nossa familia brasileira ,manda um email para: josue_pastega@hotmail.com e se não tudo bem.

    Mario Pastega Historia de Vencedor igual a todos nós Pastegas que moramos no Brasil.

    Hi, I’m from Brazil and the surname pastego, searching on Google I found, if you want to contact our Brazilian family, send an email to: josue_pastega@hotmail.com and not so good.

    History of Mario pastego Winner pastego equal to all of us who live in Brazil.

  • Renato Rizzuti -- Canada said:

    Great story, great man to write about! I wanted to read more about Mario, how he coped with the death of his daughter. How one recovers and goes on after such an incident would have been of great interest to all of your readers.

    However, I enjoyed reading the story and it was informative.

  • Misty -- Alaska said:

    I believe too much of our media focuses on humanity’s brokenness, instead of its indomitable spirit. This innate strength, so clearly possessed by the everyday heroes your magazine profiles, is edifying and inspiring. I would like to be a part of that.

    The story I enjoyed the most was about Mario Pastega, owner of Pepsi Cola Bottling Companies in Oregon. What struck me is that the foundation for Pastega’s achievements was hard work, not a particularly unique talent or skill he’d channeled into business success. I was also deeply touched by his admission that losing his 23-year-old daughter was the most devastating event of his life. I lost my son, Ben, in 2007, so his grief resonated with me.

  • AnneF -- New Jersey said:

    This piece invokes nosalgia as well as inspiration. He worked in a shoe shop when he was 12. Today, there are no more shoe shops and children don’t learn trades from their parents as in years gone by. What a spectacle the Christmas light must be. 68 years married? I would love to know more about the secrets to that!

  • cassandra -- Rhode Island said:

    I liked how his quote appeared in the headline; those inspiring words are what drew me to the article, namely because I am serving my second year with AmeriCorps and I’ve witnessed first-hand the bona fide impact individuals can have on a community. I graduated from college after spending a semester abroad in Greece, and I just felt so grateful for receiving an education and a chance to see the world that I’ve put the job search off for now to give back to struggling neighborhoods in Providence. I do like the details about the Christmas light display; that provides great context and “shows” the efforts Mr. Pastega has made to improve life in Corvallis.

  • Robin p -- New York said:

    I like what Mr. Pastega said, “If life has been good to you, you have to give something back,” but I have a twist to that. “If life hasn’t been good to you, you have to give something back.” You might be asking yourself why I am saying something that may not make much sense. If you think about it, it is only through the trials and hardships that people have become the successes that they are today. I believe that the loss of Mr. Pastega’s daughter might have fueled his motivation more to succeed or to make a difference to others. Plus, there are far more people in the world that feel that life hasn’t been good to them, so that message would reach far more readers and would inspire more people.

    Just an idea.

  • Stephanie said:

    Today I had the time to read “Mario Pastega : Owner of Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. Believes, “If Life has been good to you, you have to give something back”

    I enjoy the article because it’s short enough to read in one sitting and keeps your attention. I also enjoyed it because it’s inspiring, harkening back to the hardships of his childhood and the loss of his daughter and how he prevailed in spite of these travails.
    I only hope I can live that long and be so successful.

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