(UPDATED COVERAGE, 4:32 p.m.) Jan Fleming, former president and chief executive officer of Chicago-based wholesaler Strube Celery & Vegetable Co., died May 1 after a long fight with cancer. She was 67.
Fleming became president of Strube in 1994, succeeding her father, Bob Strube. In 2004, she stepped down from day-to-day leadership of the company but remained chief executive officer.
Fleming’s industry contributions included serving on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s first fruit and vegetable advisory committee.
Tom Stenzel, president of the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C., said that Fleming will be remembered with equal parts love and respect.
“I can’t imagine anybody who has more respect in our industry than Jan,” Stenzel said. “She was a nurturing leader who supported younger people, and she had a personal style that was warm and welcoming.”
In 2001, Fleming and her husband, Tim Fleming, Strube’s executive vice president, received The Packer’s Produce Man and Woman of the Year Award.
Lisa Strube, Strube’s director of finance and administration, said she was fortunate to have a mentor like Fleming when she joined the company in 1987.
“What better position to be in than to follow one of the first women in produce,” she said. “She strongly supported everything I did, and I can only hope to emulate her.”
Fleming’s first ambition, Strube said, was to be a teacher. She tried it for six months before she realized her heart was in the produce industry. She joined Strube, which was founded in 1913 by her grandfather, in the late 1960s.
Fleming proved herself to her demanding father, Strube said, by creating Strube’s successful fruit program.
Fleming’s leadership style was the opposite of her father’s, but it was just as effective, Strube said.
“She had an incredible ability to lead people without them even knowing that’s what she was doing. I don’t think people understood the strength behind her.”
Becky Wilson, assistant vice president of the Tom Lange Co., Springfield, Ill., met Fleming a decade ago at United Fresh’s Washington Public Policy Conference.
“She took me under her wing and never let go,” Wilson said. “She always had wonderful insight on how to be respected as a woman in the produce industry. Jan Fleming is someone you strive to be.”
Visitation will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. May 5 at North Shore United Methodist Church, 213 Hazel Ave., Glencoe, Ill. Memorial services will be held at 2 p.m. May 6 at the church.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks mourners to contribute to the Jan and Tim Fleming Scholarship for Women Majoring in Business.