George Lamont (right) receives The Packer Man of the Year Award in 2008 from The Packer's Tom Karst. ( File photo )

George Lamont, a N.Y. apple grower who “retired” in the late 1990s but was instrumental in forming the Premier Apple Cooperative a few years later, has died.

Lamont died March 13 at Saranac Lake, N.Y.

While he was active in the family’s business, Lamont Fruit Farm Inc., Albion, N.Y., he was also an advocate not only for the New York apple industry, but the overall U.S. industry, according to Jim Allen, vice president of marketing for New York Apple Sales and the former president of the New York Apple Association.

“We New Yorkers can often be ‘set in our ways’ and we tend to follow our predecessors rather than choose to change, but George had the talent to identify weaknesses and offer a path to improvement,” Allen wrote in tribute to Lamont. “And that he did, and the industry started to react and changes were seen. Getting New Yorkers to agree is one thing, but taking this direction across state lines, for the betterment of the domestic industry, was yet another task, but not unsurmountable for George.”

The Packer honored Lamont with its Apple Man of the Year Award in 2008, at the U.S. Apple Association’s annual Crop Outlook Conference.

"I know there are many people in this industry who would be very worthy recipients, and I am honored, and my knees are shaking, that you selected me," he said. "It's been a great run so far, but we've got a long ways to go. I accept this on behalf of everyone in this room who is trying to improve the apple industry."

In a story on the award, The Packer quoted John Rice of Rice Fruit Co., Gardners, Pa., who referred to the benefits Lamont’s work has had for apple growers.

"I can't think of another person in our industry who has done more to promote the economic success of apple growers in this half of the country than George," Rice said.

Lamont served on boards for many apple associations, including the New York Apple Association, the U.S. Apple Association (when it was known as the International Apple Institute) and the NY State Horticultural Society.

A memorial service will be scheduled in Albion, N.Y., this summer.