(April 8, 11:49 a.m.) Colleagues remember Fred Tobi as a highly respected and involved industry figure.

Tobi, 87, founder of the Tampa, Fla.-based The Tobi Co. Inc. produce brokerage, died March 24. Friends and family eulogized him at a March 29 memorial service.

Tobi, who retired in 1986, from the late 1960s to the early 1980s served on the boards of the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, Washington, D.C. and the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del., and was president of the International Apple Institute (now the U.S. Apple Association), McLean, Va.

HELD IN HIGH REGARD

In 1980, Tobi was awarded The Packer’s Apple Man of the Year and in 1985, he was named The Packer’s Produce Man for All Seasons.

John Rice, president of and partner in Rice Fruit Growers, Gardner, Pa., served with Tobi in apple industry meetings.

“I remember the respect and high regard he was kept in by all the people who knew him,” Rice said. “He was one of the people like E.F. Hutton. When he started talking, everyone stopped and listened to Fred. He had been around the industry so long and had the ear of many people in the industry.”

In a 1992 retrospective of the 1980s, The Packer said Tobi exemplified integrity and lauded him for involving himself in all phases of the industry.

Unusual for a broker, Tobi would donate his time to help growers involved with the different commodities he sold, Rice said.

His son, Joe Tobi, worked at the brokerage during the 1980s.

“He was focused on providing service to the retailers, creating marketing plans that served the industry well, to move product, to educate the supply line on what made it work on the retail side and to the retailers, on what made it work for the supply side,” Joe Tobi said. “It had to be a mutual give and take. He really loved the industry.”

PURPLE HEART

Trained by Charles Lindbergh in the U.S. Army Air Corps, Fred Tobi received a Purple Heart and a medal for meritorious achievement for World War II combat air missions over the South Pacific. His P-47 fighter plane crashed during his 100th combat mission.

After spending two years in a hospital recovering from his injuries, the Jacksonville, Fla., native in 1949 opened a Tampa branch of his father’s longtime produce company, the Jacksonville-based Joe Tobi Brokerage Co. In 1953, Fred Tobi bought his father’s company interest and later changed the firm’s name. The Tobi Co. celebrated its 50th year in 1999.

Tobi is survived by his wife of 55 years, Enola Newbold Cross, a daughter and four grandchildren.

Instead of flowers, the family requests donations may be made to the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home, 51 Main St., Enterprise, Fla., 32725, or to any charity of the donor’s choice.

Founder of Tampa’s Tobi Co dies
Fred Tobi