Bob Born, the 'Father of Peeps' and Hot Tamales Inventor, Dead at 98
Courtesy Just Born Quality Confections; Alamy Stock Photo
Ira "Bob" Born, the candy company executive known as the "Father of Peeps," has died. He was 98.
Born was long at the helm of Just Born Quality Confections, a century-old company started by his father Sam Born. The company announced his death Monday, sharing that he died peacefully on Sunday.
Born in N.Y.C., Born's family moved in the 1930s to Bethlehem, Penn. where Just Born is still based. After graduating from Lehigh University, Born enlisted in the U.S. Navy where he served as a radar specialist and a lieutenant on a destroyer in the Pacific. The Navy ultimately sent him to both the University of Arizona and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he studied math and physics.
Though he had aims to attend medical school and had been accepted, he decided to help out at his father's business while he awaited the start date, and ultimately felt it was his calling. He stayed with the company until retirement.
At Just Born, where he was president for 30 years starting in 1959, Born led a legacy that involved the invention of Peeps, the popular marshmallow bunnies. He revolutionized the technology to change the process of making the marshmallow delights — cutting the 27-hour process down to a six-minute mechanized procedure. Born also invented Hot Tamales by finding a way to rework the Mike and Ike candies.
Courtesy Just Born Quality Confections
"He learned the business from the ground up, focusing on the technical and processing aspects of candy making," Ross Born, Bob's son, said in a statement. "At the same time, he recognized the importance of developing people, and he discovered wonderful talent that made a positive impact on the business."
Though Born eventually stepped away, he visited Just Born often and last visited the factory in February 2019 when he was honored by the city of Bethlehem after they named the first day of the Easter season as "Bob Born Day," according to the company.
"Bob will be remembered as a tireless and passionate advocate for the candy industry and a wonderful supporter of our community," David Shaffer, the board chair and co-CEO of Just Born, said in a statement. "Bob was our second-generation family member whose dedication was instrumental in Just Born reaching our 100-year milestone. We extend our deepest sympathy to his son, Ross, and the entire family."
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After retiring, Born moved to Florida where he pursued his other passions, including photography. Born also started a literacy program in a Florida school system in an underserved community, according to Ross.
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He was involved with a vast array of organizations such as being the director of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America and a chair of the Anti-Defamation League.
Born is survived by his widow, Patricia; children Sara and Ross; five grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.