Willie McRae, president of Mount Pleasant, S.C.-based McRae Produce, died April 2 at the age of 65.
McRae followed in his father Harris’ footsteps with his work in the industry, selling produce to customers throughout the eastern U.S.
Kemp McLeod, owner of McBee, S.C.-based McLeod Farms, which markets peaches under the Mac’s Pride label, described McRae as someone who was diligent in making sure that both growers and retailers won in every transaction. He worked very hard to make that happen, McLeod said.
“The notoriety that we have and the visibility of the brand we have wouldn’t be there (but) for Willie McRae promoting our product,” McLeod said. “He did an excellent job in promoting our brand and making it — if not the best — one of the best brands of peaches in the Southeast.”
Andy Sigal, CEO of Warwick, R.I-based Tourtellot & Co., another longtime industry partner of McRae, described him as “different in the best way possible.”
“He lifted everybody’s spirits,” Sigal said. “When he saw you, you had his undivided attention. He wanted to make sure you were heard. He wanted to make sure you were understood.
“He was gentlemanly, he was kind, he was respectful,” Sigal said.
Ed Myrick, founder of Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Edward L. Myrick Produce, said McRae was always thinking, always polite and generous.
“We’re going to miss him so much,” Myrick said. “Everybody loved Willie.”
McRae not only made a mark in the produce business, with another longtime friend describing him as an “industry legend,” but he left a lasting impression on his community as well. McRae owned and presided over Boone Hall Plantation, a Mount Pleasant venue for concerts, festivals, sporting events, weddings and other gatherings, many for charitable organizations. He received the state’s highest civilian honor this year for service to the community, which included putting the plantation in a conservation easement so the area can be enjoyed by future generations.
McRae is survived by his sister and brother-in law, Elizabeth McRae and Finn Petersen, according to his obituary. A memorial service will be announced later.