Dan Hinkle, who one colleague called “the Great Pumpkin” because of his value-added pumpkin promotions and donations to children, died Dec. 24 in Hoopeston, Ill. He was 67.
Hinkle co-founded Cissna Park, Ill.-based Hinkle Produce with his father and grew the business to include 2,000 acres of vegetables, according to the company website. Of that, about half were devoted to pumpkins.
More than 20 years ago, Hinkle began a value-added pumpkin program built around eye-catching bin wraps, or as he called them, kid magnet bins.
The program also included book and stuffed animal tie-ins for retailers to donate to local needy children.
The donations were part of the Hinkle Community Program, a project of Hinkle and his wife, Mary, which committed to provide $500,000 worth of books and toys over several years.
“Dan was very passionate about this and very sincere,” said Bill Albring, Midwestern account representative for International Paper, who had worked with Hinkle for more than 15 years. “He was full of life. He was the Great Pumpkin.”
In 2007, Hinkle secured rights to the Peanuts comic strip characters from United Features Syndicate and worked with Albring to develop Charlie Brown pumpkin bins and later, Snoopy watermelon bins.
The characters were part of Hinkle Produce’s Peanuts Gang Marketing Program.
“He was very aware of the obesity epidemic in the country, and he wanted kids to start eating healthier,” Albring said. “And kids are the shoppers of the future.”
Hinkle is survived by his wife, Mary, and two daughters, according to the obituary, from Knapp Funeral Homes.