Gantry Plaza State Park, Long Island City, New York
Photo: Joe Mabel, Wikimedia Commons

Thomas & Jeanne Elmezzi’s Story

Thomas Elmezzi was born in December of 1914 to a poor immigrant family. He began his career at the age of 16 during the Great Depression, working for Queens-based Loft Candies. In 1931, Charles Guth, then President of Loft Candies, went to a bankruptcy sale in Richmond, Virginia where he bought Pepsi’s formula, trademark and goodwill. Tom revised and developed a new formula for Pepsi-Cola alongside his mentor John Ritchie, Loft’s chief chemist and Elmezzi family friend. In 1951, Tom altered the formula again to meet the tastes of changing times, and from that time until he left the company in 1968, he was the only man on Earth who knew how to make Pepsi-Cola.

Tom went on to become the Worldwide Head of Production for Pepsi-Cola and helped to launch Pepsi in Canada, Cuba, Germany, Mexico and the Philippines all before he turned 30. He later set up bottling operations and launched Pepsi in Argentina, Australia, Bermuda, Brazil, Colombia, France, Ghana, Greece, Japan, Peru, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, Uruguay and Venezuela.

In September 1963, Tom turned down the job of President of the Pepsi-Cola Company as he considered himself more of an operations man. In 1968, Tom retired from Pepsi at the age of 54, but remained active in business ventures such as Intercontinental Foods, King Cola and Cascade Specialties.

Jeanne Elmezzi was just 17 months old when her father became ill. He and her mother could not care for a baby in addition to her three older brothers, so they sent her from their home in Philadelphia to live with her aunt in Astoria. Jeanne’s new home was across the street from the Elmezzi home, and she and Tom attended college together, though their romance began later. During the early years of their marriage and Tom’s work with Pepsi, Jeanne traveled around the world with him as he set up bottling plants. She was an avid reader and enjoyed crosswords.

Tom Elmezzi started the Thomas and Jeanne Elmezzi Private Foundation in 1996 to give back to those less fortunate than himself. According to Tom, “That guy upstairs — He blessed my family and me with this money. So I have to give back. If you are one of those who have ways of helping people, it behooves you to do so, in my opinion.”

Tom passed away on October 3, 2005. Jeanne died a few days later. Up until their passing, at age 90 and 94 respectively, Tom and his wife Jeanne remained active in the charitable activities of the foundation.