Will Souza, founder of Santa Maria, Calif.-based Babe Farms, died Jan. 21. He was 89.
Souza grew up on his family’s farm in the Santa Maria Valley. He attended Cal Poly College in San Dimas, Calif., before joining the U.S. Navy in 1941. As an aviator in World War II, Souza earned several presidential citations for valor.
After the war, Souza and his partner Loris Boster grew broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, celery and other vegetables in the Santa Maria Valley.
In 1986, Souza, Frank and Judy Lundberg and Greg and Cherrie Pedigo founded Babe Farms, one of the first U.S. growers to ship European salad mixes, specialty greens and baby vegetables.
Souza stepped down as president of Babe in 1999, but continued to work in an advisory role.
In 2000, Souza won Santa Barbara County’s Farmer of the Year award.
Souza is survived by his wife, Lyn; daughters Carol Ciavarelli and Lauren Souza; a sister, DeEtta Boster; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Marian Medical Center Foundation, 1400 East Church Street, Santa Maria, Calif., 93454.