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Apalachicola Mayor Kevin Paul Begos, Jr. passed away at Capital Regional Medical Center at June 19 at the age of 63.
He had been rushed there after experiencing cardiac arrest.
His mother, Jane Richardson, of Apalachicola, was with him at the time of his passing, after she and Begos’ sister, Cassandra Begos, of New York City, had adhered to his final wishes that he not be sustained on life support by artificial means.
For the last few weeks, Begos was on the mend at Weems Memorial Hospital from an infection that had required an initial hospital stay at Bay Medical Center. Doctors worked to get rid of the infection that affected the aortic heart valve he had replaced three years ago.
Elected in Sept. 2019 in his first bid for public office, Begos wasted little time in taking the rudder of the city, particularly the large water and sewer debt amassed over several years.
A former reporter with a career covering science as well as general assignments, both here and abroad, Begos took a hands-on role in shoring up city finances. He was instrumental in bringing onboard City Manager Travis Wade, Finance Director Leo Bebeau and City Attorney Dan Hartman.
He was ahead of the curve during the coronavirus pandemic, issuing a proclamation early on that masks be worn inside buildings within the city. He had recovered from COVID-19 in July 2020.
“Apalachicola Mayor Kevin Begos was an outstanding leader in his community, as well as in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District," read a statement from the office of Congressman Neal Dunn, M.D (Florida-02). "Kevin led Apalachicola through the aftermath of Hurricane Michael and the COVID-19 pandemic, which was no easy feat. In a time when his community needed him most, Kevin selflessly stepped up to the plate to unite the community and get the town back on track.”
Born in 1958 to US Navy parents in Marseilles, France, Begos first studied creative writing at Bard College and then began a career in fine art publishing. He moved to Apalachicola in the mid 1990s and began his career as a journalist with the Apalachicola Times, going on to win awards for work in the Winston Salem Journal, The Associated Press and Duke University. His landmark series in North Carolina “Against Their Will” helped to enact the first legislation in the United States to compensate victims of forced sterilization.
His book, "Tasting the Past: The Science of Flavor and the Search for the Origins of Wine," published in 2018, won the Florida Book Award for non-fiction and has been called “the de facto standard for teaching wine history” by the Philadelphia Wine School.
An active member of the community, Begos represented the seafood industry for many years, bringing their concerns to the State Capitol and to the floor of Congress. He was also proud to be a lighthouse keeper at the St. George Lighthouse, and a docent at Apalachicola’s Orman House and John Gorrie Museum.
On June 30, the Apalachicola community turned out at the Chapman Auditorium to honor his memory. Remembering Begos as a “son, brother, friend and neighbor,” three speakers – Karen Cox-Dennis, Chuck Lombardo and Rose Griffin - spoke of his dedication to serving the community.
“He was a jewel among jewels,” Griffin said. “He placed his hand to the plow and regardless of what was ahead of him or behind him, he would never deliberately release that plow, he would never let go of the charge he had to keep, or look back and regret.”