Jerry Havel, active in the produce industry right out of college and a veteran of the Nogales, Ariz., import business, has died.
Havel, whose dedication to the industry spanned almost four decades, died after fighting cancer, on July 17. He was 62.
“The produce industry lost a pillar, as his nearly four decades long career touched so many people, in so many ways,” according to an e-mail from the Molina family, whose produce he sold through Fresh Farms. “ … From his humble beginnings at Dole, to his last days as sales and marketing director of Fresh Farms, Jerry’s passion for life carried over to his work, making him an incredible success.”
Havel started selling bananas and other tropicals for Dole Fruit Co. in the late 1970s. After seven years, he joined Exeter Packers, the pre-curser to Sun Pacific, Pasadena, Calif., selling citrus.
In 1995, he started his own company, US Fresh in Visalia, Calif., which was “a big turning point in my advancement in the business, and something I had wanted to do for a long time,” he told The Packer in its 2016 edition of 25 leaders in the produce industry.
According to that profile, Havel realized the potential Mexico held as a supplier of produce to the U.S., and merged US Fresh with Nogales importer SunFed, moving to the area in the early 2000s.
In 2006, when the Molina family in Hermosillo, Mexico, began marketing its own produce, Havel led its new sales company, Fresh Farms, in Nogales.
Survivors include his wife, Margie, sons Joseph and Daniel, and a daughter, Ellie.
“Our condolences go out to the team at Fresh Farms, Jerry’s many friends, and his family. He will be greatly missed by many people,” the Molina family wrote in the e-mail.
Family and friends are invited to attend a celebration of life service at 3 p.m. July 26, at the Arizona Inn, 2200 E. Elm St., Tucson, Ariz. In lieu of flowers or donations, “please spend time with your loved ones and share a laugh, as Jerry would have wanted,” according to his obituary.