Noted Ocala developer dies at 71

Albert Peek Sr. founded an appraisal company, real estate brokerage firm and several investment companies. He was a co-founder of the Country Club of Ocala.

Ocala businessman Albert Peek, who died Oct. 27 at age 71, also was an avid pilot and was known for his positive spirit. [Submitted]

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Posted November 1, 2023 | By Susan Smiley-Height,

There’s a real good chance that the first thing Albert Peek said when he got to Heaven was, “Good morning, world!”

Even during his battles with glioblastoma, and multiple myeloma before that, Peek kept a positive spirit and a sign in his front yard bearing those very words. And to make sure everyone got the message, he often would start his mornings by stepping outside and shouting “Good morning, world!” just for good measure.

Albert Bryce Peek Sr., who died Oct. 27, was well known in Ocala for his business entities, involvement with nonprofits and professional organizations, love of family and deep devotion to the Florida Gator football and basketball teams. He was born Nov. 30, 1951, and still lived in the home in which he grew up. He passed away surrounded by Marilyn, his wife of more than 40 years, and their children, Audrey, Albert Jr. and Lex.

“It’s bittersweet and we’re going to miss him here, but we know where he is,” said Audrey Peek McGuinness. “About 10 years ago, he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. The survival rate was very low, so we did not expect him to live through that. He did, he beat all the odds. He got through that and two years ago was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a very aggressive brain tumor. He would joke and say, ‘I don’t know why I get to run this race twice, but we’re gonna do it.’”

In recalling her father’s early life in Ocala, McGuinness said his dad was a physician here and his grandfather was “the original horse and buggy doctor for Ocala.”

“My parents live in the house that my dad grew up in, and that whole block was owned by my great-grandfather. My great-aunt lived in the house next door, so that whole block was their homestead. She cried and cried when they bought that piece of property because it was so far from downtown. She said no one would ever come and see her and it would be the end of her social life. They’re on 5th Street! So that tells you how long ago that was, and that downtown Ocala was the central hub at that point,” McGuinness shared.

McGuinness is the oldest sibling and said her father taught his children “respect for family.”

“He taught me the importance of family sticking together. There is a Bible reference about a cord of three strands not being easily broken. He would demonstrate that for us, about always needing to stick together. I think that has never been more apparent than right now,” she said, her voice breaking. “I’m just so proud of—we call it Team Peek—because it truly was the four us surrounding his bedside and being there for him during his final weeks and days and I think that’s exactly what he would have wanted.”

She said that, on a lighter note, her father was one of four boys and that there are “lots of stories about the Peek boys. They were a little wild.” She said respect for family had been instilled in her dad at a young age and that, “Those four boys felt the same way and stuck together to this day. He was the baby.”

“He was always positive, which you’ll hear from everyone,” McGuinness added. “He did not have an easy life. He had a lot of medical issues. He was burned as a child, severely. He had, I think, six plastic surgeries between the ages of 8 and 12 and I’m sure it wasn’t easy growing up with your face covered in scars. But he exuded positivity in everything he did. Even with the latest battles, his faith was unrelenting—positiveness to the point of goofiness. We have that sign in the yard, and he would scream at the top of his lungs, ‘Good morning, world!’ That’s the way he greeted each day.”

She said that about two months ago, just before her dad was to have a scan that be “indicative of the future, we held what we thought would be a small prayer vigil, but we had about 300 people on our front yard, and we had the sign up and it was so special because he got to see it.”

“All those people showed up for him as he had touched their lives in some way,” she added.

Peek graduated from Ocala High School in 1969. He attended the University of Florida as a collegiate swimmer and maintained a lifelong connection to his team members. He graduated with a degree in real estate finance and urban planning, then founded an appraisal company, the real estate brokerage firm Ocala Development and several investment companies.

“He was a co-founder of the Country Club of Ocala, with John Rudnianyn and Duke West, which was probably one of his most notable endeavors,” McGuinness said. “I remember running on the dirt piles out there while it was being developed; there was nothing out there at that time. That was their baby for a long time.”

Peek, who was a pilot and enjoyed boating and scuba diving, served on numerous boards and councils, including the Ocala Airport Advisory Board.

Ocala International Airport Director Matthew Grow noted in a letter to the family that, “We all adored your dad and were deeply saddened by the news of his passing.  He was an amazing person, pilot, and, for me, a mentor. He was a major proponent of expanding the Ocala airport and is partially responsible for the air traffic control tower, runway extensions and rehab, apron expansions and, to an extent, the new terminal building. His expertise in land development was essential in the formation of the Airport Business Park and expansion of SW 67th Ave.”

Peek also was involved with the YMCA, Rotary Club of Metropolitan Ocala, UF Letterman’s Association Board, Downtown Development Council, Marion County Chamber of Commerce, Ocala Board of Realtors, Florida Association of Realtors and National Association of Realtors. He served on advisory boards for several banks and was a founding board member of Gateway Bank of Central Florida.

When he was in college, Kirk Boone interned with Albert Peek Realty and Investment Corporation, then began working with Peek doing real estate appraising, sales and developing. When they moved their office to the downtown square, they established Ocala Development as partners.

“I was his business partner, but when we started, he was my boss and then we migrated to a friendship, like a big brother or second father,” Boone offered. “He was one of a kind. I was blessed to learn life lessons from him.”

Boone said Peek exhibited peace and grace: “He led with love.”

“Even his health concerns were like a gift,” Boone noted. “And then he showed even more grace and unbelievable strength and positivity. And not just to me; to a room full of people. He was like a disciple, and it was wonderful to watch him. I was the luckiest guy in the world to share an office with him for more than 35 years.”

Of her father’s legacy in business and leadership, McGuinness said, “He was not wanting to change the way that Ocala feels, he just wanted to improve it and that was always a reassurance because I know developers get a bad rap, but he could not have cared more about this community, and he would do what was right for Ocala regardless of what that meant for him.”

Albert Peek is shown with his wife Marilyn and their extended family. [Submitted]

In addition to Marilyn, Peek is survived by Audrey (Darren), Albert “Bryce” Peek Jr. (Samantha Hall) and Alexander “Lex” Harris Peek; brothers, Gene (Kathie), Tommy (Lynda) and David (Cheryl) Peek; and grandchildren Kylee, Ryan and Landon Boyles, Harper McGuinness and Albert Bryce Peek III.

A celebration of life for Peek will be held at 1 p.m. Nov. 6 at Meadowbrook Church at 4741 SW 20th St., Ocala. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to HUGS Charities or Hospice of Marion County.

HUGS (Heartfelt Unconditional Giving) Charities was formed in 2009 by Michael Koontz and Manal Fakhoury to help people undergoing cancer treatment and experiencing financial hardship. HUGS provides temporary relief while helping find long-term financial solutions in partnership with The Cancer Alliance of Marion County. Funding comes primarily through an annual fundraiser, which recognizes a cancer survivor or someone who died from the disease, and individual donations. Peek was a childhood friend of Koontz and a former HUGS honoree.

“The one thing that was constant with him was his unbelievable optimism in the face of every kind of adversity,” Koontz shared. “He was encouraging to other people and would always help others in the same situation. A lot of people, when they get cancer, are embarrassed to say it because they don’t want to burden others and I think they’re afraid. But Albert shared it.”

Koontz recalled when his young friend was badly burned.

“My parents were nearby and put him in the car and took him to the hospital,” he recalled. “Burns are terribly painful. They told him when they could do it, they would take him for some ice cream. He said, ‘Ah … can I have butter pecan?’ I may be wrong on the flavor, but it shows that even at an early age he was sure he was going to overcome his problems and he did; all of his life. He was just an eternal optimist and an incredible person.”


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