Here's a recap of some of the notable fresh produce industry leaders who died in 2012:
Ernest Williams, who founded Nashville-based Ernest Williams Produce Inc. more than 60 years ago, died Dec. 20 from complications of diabetes. He was 83.
In July, Williams merged his business with Louisville, Ky.-based Creation Gardens. The merger made Creation Gardens one of the largest foodservice distributors in Kentucky and middle Tennessee, said Mark Williams, one of his three sons.
Earlier, Ernest Williams Produce served retail and foodservice operators.
“He started it in his early 20s, just buying a little bit from local distributors and selling the product,” Mark Williams said. “As he made profits, he got trucks and started bringing product in from Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. He’d sell it to the local grocery stores and farmers market, and as he continued to grow, bought property and built a warehouse.
“He was just one of those old-timers who started from nothing and built a family business into a local foodservice distributor.”
Stephen Tavilla, a fixture in the Boston-area fresh produce industry for more than seven decades, died Jan. 1. He was 87.
As a youngster, Tavilla quit school to help in the family’s wholesale fresh produce business. Eventually joined by his six brothers, Tavilla helped mold P. Tavilla Co., Chelsea, Mass., into one of the region’s major wholesale produce distributors.
The company’s success enabled expansion to other regions.
Over the years, P. Tavilla Co. acquired and built produce sales companies in California, a potato farm in Maine, a Florida tomato farm and processing and packing facility, a trucking company and a retail produce business.
The company also owns wholesale produce centers in Miami and Houston.
Tavilla’s efforts on behalf of the food industry were not restricted by U.S. borders.
He was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to task forces that advised South and Central American countries on how to improve their fresh produce industries.
Robert Norinsberg, an apple grower, shipper and wholesaler, died Dec. 25. He was 76.
Norinsberg entered the produce industry in 1958, working for his father, Jack Norinsberg, at New York-based The Norinsberg Corp. In 1992, the company transitioned into Bronx, N.Y.-based Natures Best Produce, a wholesaler on the Hunts Point Terminal Market.