CAFNR assistant professor dies in car crash

Anthony Peccoux hoped his research would help rejuvenate the state’s grape and wine industry.
Anthony Peccoux

Anthony Peccoux — an assistant professor at the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources’ Institute for Continental Climate Viticulture and Enology — died in a car accident Saturday.

At 6:35 p.m., Peccoux, 32, was driving northbound on U.S. 63 when he veered off the right side of the road and hit a concrete culvert, according to a Missouri State Highway Patrol accident report.

After the accident, Peccoux, who was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash, was transported to University Hospital. He was pronounced dead about an hour after the crash, according to the report.

ICCVE interim director Ingolf Gruen said he remembered Peccoux as a friendly colleague who was passionate and knowledgeable about his work. Originally from France, Peccoux joined the MU faculty last March.

"He was a friend," Gruen said. "He was very outgoing, often exuberant, but also very blunt. He liked to tell people that many Europeans are blunt, and that he is a blunt Frenchman. I am a blunt German and that we had that in common, which was the reason we got along so well."

Chancellor Brady Deaton released a statement on Peccoux’s death Sunday.

“I was saddened to learn of the death of one of our young, promising faculty members last night,” Deaton said. “Dr. Peccoux was an enthusiastic, respected and well-liked member of our university community although he had only been at MU for a short time. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during their time of grief.  He will be greatly missed by his MU colleagues and friends.”

Peccoux, who had a doctorate in plant physiology from the University of Bordeaux in France, joined the MU faculty to study how Missouri’s grapevines remain hearty despite Missouri’s harsh climate, Gruen said.

Grapevines native to Missouri manage to flourish despite the state’s hot summers and cold, dry winters, Gruen said. Peccoux hoped his research would help winemakers adapt their grapevines to global warming conditions.

“He was trying to look into using these native grapevines to find solutions to what we are going to face in the foreseeable future in regards to climate challenges for wine,” Gruen said.

Peccoux also hoped his work could help revive Missouri’s grape and wine industry, Gruen said.

“He felt that we had the potential to be at the forefront in research of grapevines again in the near future because of those native varieties,” Gruen said. “He wanted to really pull everyone together to try to build a research consortium that would put Missouri back on the map of grape research.”

Missouri was a major player in the wine industry in the 19th century, but despite the early success, winemaking declined in the years following prohibition, Gruen said. Production resumed in the 1960s, but Missouri has yet to re-establish itself as a major wine-producing state, he said.

“We really have not made an impact yet nationally," Gruen said. "Forget about internationally.”

Peccoux came to the United States alone. His family is coming to Missouri to return his remains to France, where his funeral will be held, Gruen said.

During his time at MU, Peccoux focused on research. He was not scheduled to teach a class until the Fall 2013 semester, Gruen said. The ICCVE will eventually hire someone to fill Peccoux’s position but has not yet begun to look for a replacement.

Peccoux’s death was the fifth traffic fatality in mid-Missouri since the beginning of the month, according to highway patrol data. There have been 58 vehicle-related fatalities in the region since the start of the year.

The ICCVE grape and wine symposium Dec. 7 will go on as scheduled, Gruen said. Peccoux was going to be one of the speakers at the event.

Gruen said he hopes other researchers will be able to move forward with Peccoux’s ideas.

“We will regroup," Gruen said. "He has left a legacy that I think we will soon pick up and continue. The legacy of research ideas is one that we will continue to honor and uphold."

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