Each time Craig Pepin would stop by the South Windsor Parks and Recreation Department, he would poke his head into Ryan Kane's work space and say hello.
Sometimes they'd talk about baseball. Sometimes family. Kane, assistant director of the department, recalled Pepin as the man who "would just talk to you about whatever was going on."
Pepin, a South Windsor softball player, former soccer coach and a father of four, was killed in a mass shooting at Hartford Distributors in Manchester on Tuesday. He had worked as a truck driver for the company and was planning to retire soon, friends said. He was 60.
Pepin, who worked at the beer and wine wholesaler for nearly 30 years, was one of nine people killed in the shooting. Omar Thornton, the gunman who was identified as an employee of the company, later killed himself.
"I just can't get over that something like this could happen to someone who's so nice and easygoing," Kane said Tuesday. "He just really enjoyed being part of the community. He was one of those parents who was involved in everything."
Pepin was known locally for coaching travel soccer teams through the South Windsor Soccer Club and being involved in the town's recreation department. He also played on a local softball team, which won its game the night before he died.
Friends described Pepin, who lived on Homestead Drive, as an avid Mets fan and family man.
"He was a guy who loved his family and gave back to the community," said Craig Zimmerman, a family friend. "He was the sort of person who enjoyed every day, the kind of person you'd like to spend time with."
In addition to soccer, Pepin coached Little League and basketball teams in South Windsor, where he lived for more than two decades, friends said.
"He would come in talking about how proud he was about living in town, to have been here for so long," Kane said.
Mike Lombardo, who coached youth soccer with Pepin, said Pepin was a mentor to the players, including Lombardo's son, Chris.
"He was a great guy. I was absolutely pleased that my son came into contact with him because he benefited tremendously from it," Lombardo said. "He was very consoling and helpful."
Pepin's selflessness was evident right up to the time he died. An employee at Hartford Distributors told The Courant that Pepin saw Thornton enter the company's warehouse with a gun and shouted for his colleagues to get out. Thornton chased Pepin down and shot him in the head, the employee said.
Some of those colleagues were able to escape out a back door.
Pepin is survived by his wife, Joan; sons Kevin, Ryan and Mark; and daughter, Kristen.
Courant staff writer Dave Altimari contributed to this story.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun