Fleming proved herself to her demanding father, Strube said, by creating a 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.”
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 Slayman Fruit Co. in 1923. Dee Slayman’s 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 exclusively pomegranates.
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 Bakersfield 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.”