(UPDATED COVERAGE, 4:43 p.m., May 15) Dee Slayman, president of Bakersfield, Calif.-based pomegranate specialist Slayman Marketing, died May 1. He was 60.

Slayman followed in the fruit industry footsteps of his father, uncle and grandfather, returning to Kern County in 1979 after a brief career in real estate.

Slayman’s grandfather, Joseph, founded the Slayman Fruit Co. in 1923. His father, Mitchell, and his uncle, Victor, turned Slayman Fruit into the largest shipper of pomegranates in the country.

At Slayman Marketing, Dee Slayman grew and marketed pomegranates exclusively.

Slayman was an invaluable resource for Firebaugh, Calif.-based Ruby Fresh Pomegranates, a relative latecomer to the deal, said Ruby Fresh salesman David Anthony, who would drive down to Slayman’s farm near Bakersfied for growing tips.

“He was helpful and encouraging — he didn’t think of us as a competitor,” Anthony said. “The past two years when we were short at the beginning of the season, he sold to us at a fair price. He was a really good guy, and he was devoted to promoting the whole industry.”

Slayman pioneered the early pomegranate deal, shipping in August and September — before the October peak.

“He was the tip of the spear,” Anthony said. “They were out there before anyone else, creating early momentum.”

Slayman built on his forebears’ innovations in the pomegranate industry and “took it to another level,” said Atomic Torosian, managing partner in Crown Jewels Produce LLC, Fresno, Calif.

“He’ll be sorely missed,” Torosian said. “Guys like that are too few and far between. The Slaymans are nothing but class people.”

Slayman is survived by his wife, DeAnna Jane Slayman; his stepson, Jonathan Cole; his mother, Joyce Slayman; and a sister, Lisa Slayman-McWalters.

A celebration of Slayman’s life will be at 10 a.m. May 15 at Greenlawn Southwest, 2739 Panama Lane, Bakersfield.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the American Cancer Society, 1523 California Ave., Bakersfield, Calif., 93304.