(UPDATED COVERAGE, 3:30 p.m.) 

Jan. 6 services are planned to remember Frank G. Donio, a longtime leader in the New Jersey produce industry.

UPDATED: Grower-shipper-distributor Frank Donio dies at 72


Donio, 72, president of Frank Donio Inc., Hammonton, N.J., died of a sudden heart attack after a Jan. 1 family dinner at his home in Berlin, N.J.

One of his sons, company co-owner Jim Donio, said his father, who worked in the produce industry for 45 years, was considered a pioneer in the New Jersey deal.

Jim Donio said his father, who took over running the company from company founder Frank Donio Sr. who died in 1971, worked with his customers to help improve packaging to better ship the state’s then fledgling blueberry deal.

“As the Jersey Fresh program in general really expanded and blueberries gained more notoriety, he tried to help by banding together different growers and treating them like other states would have done,” Jim Donio said. “He took the best of the coop style and branded them under our Top Crop label and marketed the products all over the country.”

Founded in 1933, the grower-shipper and distributor expanded to operations in Nogales, Ariz., and San Diego and began importing product.

Frank Donio also headed Donio Trucking Inc. and Donio Leasing Co.

Retiring from the produce industry in 1999, Donio entered the motel business where he owned and operated the Knolls Resort Motel in Wildwood, N.J., which he sold in 2006. Donio managed other real estate holdings throughout southern New Jersey.

Born in Hammonton, Donio grew up in nearby Rosedale, N.J. and lived in Hammonton since 1969. After graduating from high school in 1956, he entered the U.S. Marine Corps and was lauded as a community volunteer serving as president of the Hammonton Exchange Club, a member of the Sons of Italy and the Knights of Columbus Pallotti Council and served in other community organizations. He also coached youth basketball.

Survived by his wife of 51 years, Angela (nee Bilazzo); sons Rev. Frank S. Donio, John Donio, Gabriel Donio and James Donio; plus three grandchildren and a sister.

Viewings are scheduled for the evening of Jan. 5 and morning of Jan. 6 at St. Mary of Mt. Carmel Parish, St. Joseph Church, Hammonton, with mass of Christian burial set for Jan. 6.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in Donio’s memory to the Anchor of Hope Foundation Inc., 101 Tilton Street, Hammonton, N.J., 08037.