of what he's done speaks for itself." No doubt, that description
of Robert Pascal by long- time business partner Bob DeStefano
refers not only to the business side but also to the political
and personal facets of this former New Jersey boy. "I grew up
on the street corner where 'The Sopranos' is being filmed," Pascal
says, "and attended Bloomfield High School in Essex County."
A football scholarship sent Pascal to Duke University and he graduated
in 1957 with a degree in economics. Just prior to graduation,
Pascal was drafted by the Baltimore Colts, but never actually
played for them. He chose, instead, to accept the guaranteed money
offered by the Canadian Football League ("probably the one real
regrettable thing I have done. I would love to have played with
those [Baltimore] guys"). That year, Pascal had recently lost
his father and found himself the main wage earner for the family.
"That's what the deciding factor was," he explains.
After a year in Montreal, Pascal moved to Coral Gables, Fla. where
he got into the LP gas business with his then father-in-law. After
three years, Pascal purchased the Maryland corporation, a very
small operation with locations in Glen Burnie and St. Michaels.
United Propane now boasts 11 branches throughout Maryland and
Delaware, with a new site opening soon in West Virginia. The company
employs 140 people throughout the 11 locations to service their
30,000 customers. Propane is fast becoming accepted by the public
as an efficient alternative to electricity in heating homes and
operating appliances. Many industrial and commercial operations
are switching to propane as well.
Pascal attributes the success of United Propane to attracting
and retaining good employees. "It begins and ends with people,"
he says. "If you want to be successful in any endeavor, it takes
more than you. It's gotta be good people. You gotta treat 'em
right and you gotta share with 'em."
Pascal cites the company's profit-sharing program as his most
rewarding business accomplishment. "The greatest thing has been
that the employees in this business are a whole lot better off
financially and they saved every dime of it. I have truck drivers
with $100,000 in it!"
Darshana Patel, president of United Propane for the last 17 years,
says of Pascal, "He is a very, very giving individual. He still
wants to help people." Patel continues to be challenged by Pascal's
leadership. "He is tenacious, for sure," she says. "Even though
he is not here 40 hours a week, he does keep all of us in tow
and he challenges us. What we perceive as unachievable, he does
not picture that way. And it works."
Pascal won't deny the competitiveness and tenacity that have worked
so well for him over the years. "Challenges really keep you young
and keep you active and that kind of stuff," he says. "I want
to leave this world going 90 miles an hour, somewhere!" Pascal
defines his philosophy as never making a decision based on the
fear of losing or the fear of making a mistake. "Just take it
ongo out there and do it and if you lose, well,...try it again!"
Along a more serious vein, Pascal enjoys quoting Teddy Roosevelt,
who said, "I choose not the life of ignoble ease, but the strenuous
life. Far better it is to dare mighty triumphs, even though checkered
with failure, than to take rank with those poor souls who live
in that gray twilight, that know no victory or defeat."
To wit, consider Pascal's political career in Maryland. "I will
tell you that, properly motivated, one can get an awful lot done
in the political arena," he says. "Really, I think that following
or bringing people to one's faith is probably the highest calling
but, after that, public service is very high."
Entry into the political arena for Pascal came in the form of
a run for the constitutional convention in the late 1960s, a bipartisan
election of delegates to rewrite the Maryland Constitution. He
chuckles, "We did it and it failed miserably at the polls. It
had great intellect but very little political strategy."
Heartened nonetheless, Pascal decided to run for public office.
A registered Democrat, he describes the party of that time as
the "old guard" Democrats, the "good ol' boys" of traditional
politics. He recalls, "I didn't think I could beat 'em in the
primary, so I changed my affiliation to Republican. Philosophically,
I think I belonged there."
Pascal won the election and spent four years, from 1970 to 1974,
in the Maryland Senate. In the succeeding eight years, he was
elected and re-elected County Executive for Anne Arundel County
and later ran as the Republican nominee for governor in 1982 against
Harry Hughes. "It was the wrong time and the wrong place," he
says, "but I have no regrets. You don't get to play in the championship
game very often. It was a great challenge."
In the late '80s and early '90s, Pascal served as appointments
secretary for Gov. William Donald Schaefer. "It was a great experience,"
he recalls. "I gave jobs away---I was the job fellow. I felt very
privileged as a Republican in a Democratic cabinet. He [Schaefer]
and I were and are good friends."
Looking back, Pascal is proud of his involvement in the setting
of some growth criteria for Anne Arundel County. "We were the
second county in the nation to develop an adequate facilities
ordinance and we really cut down zoning densities," he says. The
purchase of 3,000 acres of recreational park land was also accomplished
on Pascal's watch and is still protected. "Thank heaven we did
it at that time, because we couldn't afford to do it now," he
says. "But what we truly did was cut down the densities, cut down
the height of buildings and we prevented Anne Arundel from going
the way of Prince George's County and all of the other high-density
counties around the metropolitan areas." Pascal was opposed to
the subway because of the high density development that typically
occurs near subway locations.
So, where does a propane gas wholesaler/retailer garner enough
support to run and win in politics? "When I came to Severna Park,
I started coaching the Green Hornet Little League team with Bob
DeStefano. I did that for almost 10 years in the '60s and '70s.
Those parents became the nucleus of my political organization
when I wanted to run. Anything I have ever run for, they have
been there---the same group of parents, coming out of the woodwork,
door knocking for me, manning the polls, manning the telephones."
The kids were 12 to 14 years old back then. "They still call me
'Coach' when I see 'em," Pascal says.
The partnership with De-Stefano reached a lot further than football.
Together, they own shopping centers on Kent Island and in Severna
Park and have partnered in a lot of the residential construction
along Bestgate Road. Pascal describes the risk they took in pioneering
the strip mall on Kent Island. "We started construction on that
with no tenants. And we had a big sign out there that said, 'Sign
up---Only a few spots left!' I knew they were going to come...I'm
sure glad they came when they did because we were hung out on
Another of Pascal's challenges was his purchase of the St. Michaels
Harbor Inn and Marina, a luxury waterfront hotel and restaurant
on the Eastern Shore. "I had no experience in it," he recalls.
"I just felt like I could do it as well as anybody else can---even
An ongoing pursuit for Pascal is to just keep figuring out who
he is. "Know thyself," he says. "Hopefully, I'm somebody who cares
about what's around him because, really, the pursuit of fame and
wealth I've had my share of. I tell my grandchildren that I really
think money buys you freedom and good health care."
Pascal loves the outdoors, fishing and hunting, and remains very
interested in land conservation. He owns a 520-acre farm in Talbot
County, a 200-acre farm in Dorchester County next to the Blackwater
Wildlife Refuge and another farm at the end of Tilghman Island.
He does a lot of work on habitat with Ducks Unlimited and has
put most of his acreage into the Maryland Environmental Trust.
Back home on the western shore, Pascal enjoys spending time in
his Annapolis condo on the Bay. "Annapolis is such a unique town,"
he says. "No matter where I go, I hear good things about Annapolis."
Pascal treasures the preservation of the historic district and
considers the champions of that cause to be true local heroes.
Football is not entirely out of the picture for Pascal, who holds
25 season tickets to Navy games. As far as bringing on any new
sports at this stage in life, he threatens to learn how to sail
but hasn't yet gotten around to it. He smiles and says, "That
may be one of my last challenges."