( Courtesy Basciani Foods )

Mario Basciani, a mushroom grower known for his tireless work ethic and founder of Basciani Foods, has died.

Basciani died Sept. 13. He was 91.

Basciani, known as “Chuff” by acquaintances, was a second-generation grower and patriarch of the Basciani family, of which many members are active in the Pennsylvania mushroom industry.

He was born in Toughkenamon, Pa., to Italian immigrants, and worked on his father’s farm.

Upon graduating from high school, Basciani, his older brother Flavian and younger brother Emedio Jr. entered the business full-time, according to an obituary from grandson Joe Basciani, chief financial officer of the Basciani Cos.

He married Anna Masciantonio in 1950. When an auto accident in 1967 put Mario Basciani into a coma, the family credits “her love and persistent prayers” for bringing him out of the coma, according to Joe Basciani.

Mario Basciani formed his company in 1969 with his sons Monnie, Michael and Richard. The next year he became a partner in The Mushroom Co., which is now the largest mushroom processing company in North America, according to the obituary.

M.D. Basciani & Sons Inc. continued to grow with his sons and son-in-law George.

At the same time, Mario Basciani was helping young growers open their own operations, including his nephews.

In 1979, he and other growers established Laurel Valley Farms, which remains a commercial composting facility supplying mushroom growers.

In the 1980s, Mario Basciani’s sons broke out on their own, to expand beyond growing, with Michael overseeing the packing facility and Monnie and Richard in charge of growing.

In the 1990s, Mario Basciani stepped back as more family members became involved, including grandchildren and his daughter, Joanne, who joined Michael in the office, according to Joe Basciani.

The family formed Basciani Foods Inc. in 1994, opening a packing facility the same year. Although Mario Basciani was mostly consulting by this time, he was instrumental in the addition of Basciani Foods’ location in Chicago and Minneapolis. He also merged his father-in-law’s farm and his father’s original farm, a highlight of his career, according to Joe Basciani.

During the remaining 20 years of his life, he enjoyed travel and spending time with family, but he also helped in opening facilities in Orlando, Fla., and Independence, La.

He was involved in the business to the end, according to Joe Basciani, receiving daily update from family members.

“Today, The Basciani Group of Cos. is one of North America’s largest vertically integrated mushroom conglomerates, all because of one powerful and optimistic man whose legacy will motivate his descendants for generations to come,” according to Joe Basciani.

Survivors include his wife, sons Michael, Monnie and Richard, and daughters Joanne and Susanne.

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