Tag Archives: NWA Hall of Fame Inductees

The Last Four in the Class of 2016 – National Watermelon Hall of Fame

nwa hall of fame

The National Watermelon Association has a long history of remarkable leaders from the watermelon industry that have contributed their time, energy, and expertise to the Association and its members. 
 
The Association’s Hall of Fame has been created to honor the lives and contributions of these members, both past and present.
 
We will inaugurate the Hall of Fame and recognize the first class of inductees during the National Convention in New Orleans, February 25th-27th, 2016.
 
The following is the Class of 2016!
Gordon Etheridge
Raleigh, North Carolina
Lifetime Council member, Gordon Etheridge, has been a member of the National Watermelon Association for over 40 years. He has served on many committees in that time and was the President of the North Carolina Watermelon Association at its onset. Owner of Etheridge Produce LLC, Gordon began in 1958 as a watermelon broker. He worked his way up the east coast and is now ‘at home’ in Raleigh, North Carolina. Gordon’s still in business today and is a faithful member of the Association.
Known for being honest, hard-working, and ‘hands-on’ has given Gordon a reputation that precedes him. Michael Bunch has known him most of his life and describes Gordon as, ‘the Grandfather of the watermelon business.’
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Ralph Meitin
Zellwood, Florida
Ralph Meitin was the president of Zellwood Fruit Distributors; established in 1943, Zellwood Fruit Distributors was in business for 71 years!
Ralph served on the Executive Council of the NWA in 1969. He was a Lifetime Council member of the National Watermelon Association and was an actively engaged member for over 30 years.
Ralph helped to found the Tangerine Bowl, which supported the Elk’s Harry-Anna Crippled Children’s Hospital in Umatilla.  Meitin’s children said they were inspired by their father’s involvement in philanthropy. Ralph Meitin was a well-respected leader in business as well as in his community.
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Howard  E Sorrells
Arcadia, Florida
Howard Sorrells was born in Hiram, Georgia. He moved to Arcadia, Florida and later attended and graduated from U of F with a BA in business administration in 1951 on a GI Bill. He moved to Atlanta and operated Sorrells & Chapman (a wholesale business that sold citrus and watermelon in the off-season) for 6 years.
Howard returned to the family packing house in Arcadia, Florida in 1957 where they grew watermelon as well as citrus. Howard served in both the Florida Watermelon Association and the National Watermelon Association.
From 1968-1980, Howard Sorrells proudly served on the School Board of DeSoto County serving as chairman of the board from 1971-1973. He was appointed to the Florida Citrus Commission by Governor Lawton Chiles and served from 1991-1998. In 2008, Howard received the NWA Lifetime Achievement Award.
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Nancy Childers
Morven, Georgia
Nancy Childers served as the executive secretary-treasurer of the National Watermelon Association from 1976-1991, when it was based in Morven, Georgia.  She was always willing to go the extra mile with her support, hard work and selfless interest in the watermelon business. When she left, the Association’s membership stood at about 600.
After leaving the NWA, Nancy remained entrenched in her Georgia roots by helping growers from multiple crop industries to organize the Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association in August 1996, where she remained for a number of years as the organization’s secretary-treasurer.  To this day, the GFVGA serves its constituents in addressing common issues with and for the industry.

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Only Eight More in the Class of 2016 – National Watermelon Association Hall of Fame

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The National Watermelon Association has a long history of remarkable leaders from the watermelon industry that have contributed their time, energy, and expertise to the Association and its members. 
 
The Association’s Hall of Fame has been created to honor the lives and contributions of these members, both past and present.
 
We will inaugurate the Hall of Fame and recognize the first class of inductees during the National Convention in New Orleans, February 25th-27th, 2016.
 
The following is the Class of 2016!
Percy Bunch
Murfreesboro, North Carolina
Percy Bunch began growing watermelons as a hobby farmer in the late 1950s. His watermelon wholesale business, Murfreesboro Farms Inc., officially opened seasonally in 1973 on Union Market in Washington, DC. Percy and Frances moved the business back to their hometoFrances and Percy Bunchwn, Murfreesboro, North Carolina, in 1984. Percy was president and general manager of the company until he retired in 2009 at which time his son, Michael Bunch, took over the operation and continues to do so today.
Throughout his career in the watermelon industry, Percy and the Bunch family have been active members of the National Watermelon Association. Percy served as President, started and led the North Carolina Watermelon Association, and presided over the National Watermelon Promotion Board. Percy Bunch has served in the National Watermelon Association for over 30 years. He currently sits on our Lifetime Council.
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Vernon F Highley
Fresno, California
President of Highley Associates, a federal relations firm founded in 1985, in Washington, DC – relocated to Fresno, CA in 2000. He represented the National Watermelon Association as a federal lobbyist. He began his career in agriculture marketing  and later joined the US Dept of Agriculture where he became the Special Assistant to the Secretary of Agriculture, Clifford Hardin.
In 1982, Vern was persuaded to return to Washington, DC to serve as Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service. He went on to become Executive Director of the Farmers and Ranchers for the Reagan-Bush and Bush-Quayle Presidential campaigns before forming Highley Associates.
Vern led the USDA operations in the Western states and the Pacific Trust Territories, before opening his own firm, Highley Associates. He represented various organizations including the Cotton Growers Warehouse Association, National Watermelon Association, Imperial County California, and the Imperial Valley Conservation Research Center.
Vern was honored twice with the National Watermelon Association’s Outstanding Service Award.
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Josephine Hughes
Houston, Texas
Josephine Hughes was instrumental in starting Canino Produce Company in 1958 on Airline Drive in Houston, Texas.  She worked tirelessly as the co-founder and co-owner for over 25 years.
She was chairwoman of Vegetable Day Celebrations that the Farmers Market held for many years. Josephine was an active and then honorary member of the Texas Watermelon Association and the National Watermelon Association.
Josephine won many 1st place ribbons for pecans that she and Charlie harvested on their property in the Texas hill country.
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Harmon R Lawson
Morven, Georgia
Harmon Roy Lawson operated the H R Lawson Farm Supply in Morven, Georgia. He served as the President of the National Watermelon Association from 1966-1967 and served on the Executive Committee for 25 years. He was a faithful member of the NWA for over 40 years!
Harmon served as Executive Secretary-Treasurer for the National Watermelon Association from 1968-1991 and was given title of Executive Secretary Emeritus upon retirement.

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#nwamembermondays – The List Continues: Hall of Fame Class of 2016

nwa hall of fame
The National Watermelon Association has a long history of remarkable leaders from the watermelon industry that have contributed their time, energy, and expertise to the Association and its members. 
 
The Association’s Hall of Fame has been created to honor the lives and contributions of these members, both past and present.
 
We will inaugurate the Hall of Fame and recognize the first class of inductees during the National Convention in New Orleans, February 25th-27th, 2016.
 
The following is the Class of 2016!
Buddy Leger
Cordele, Georgia
Buddy Leger
Buddy’s career began in the early 1950’s when he worked for the Federal State Inspection Service grading fruits and vegetables. In the ’60s, he managed Cordele’s Farmers Market operated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, but it was in 1964 that he set foot in the watermelon business for himself. In the late 1970s, Buddy recognized the need for watermelon producers and shippers to come together to support watermelon promotion and research. Buddy naturally became first leader of the newly formed National Watermelon Promotion Board.
Buddy has held leadership positions in Georgia’s Watermelon Association as well as serving as President and Chairman of the National Association. Today Mr. Leger sits on the National Watermelon Association’s Executive Council.
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Wallace Luffman
Salisbury, Maryland
Wallace was a lifelong innovator, adopting new farm practices influential in the agricultural industry in Delmarva. In 1972, he was awarded the Certificate of Merit by the Governor for agricultural achievements. In 1990, he represented the US Dept of Agriculture in Armenia to assess that country’s ability to grow and distribute vegetables.
Wallace served as the president of the Mar-Del Watermelon Growers (precursor to the Association) and was a board member of the National Watermelon Promotion Board.
He received a lifetime achievement award from the National Watermelon Growers and Distributors Association (precursor to the National Watermelon Association). He farmed all his life.
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Robert Brian Bloebaum
Clermont, Florida
Bob Bloebaum was born and raised in Vincennes, Indiana and moved to Florida in 1961. In 1968, he graduated from the University of Florida.
Bob was the owner/operator of the Dal-Don Produce, Inc. (brokerage and shipping) in Clermont, Florida for over 40 years. The company shipped more than 3000 truckloads of watermelon during its peak years.  Dal-Don handled products from about 2500 acres in several states in the South and the Midwest.
Bob served on the Executive Committee of the National Watermelon Association.
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Dallas Jones
Clermont, FL
Born in Washington, Indiana, Dallas Jones moved to Clermont, Florida to partner with long-time friend Don Bloebaum.  Over more than 40 years, Dal-Don Produce grew into a substantial fruit-distribution venture nationwide.
Dallas was a pioneer in the produce industry and a man of unwavering character. Dallas embodied the most beautiful and enduring qualities of his generation; achievement through hard work, service to those in need, and a deep commitment to provide for, love and cherish his family.
Dallas retired in 2002.  His sons, Danny, Billy, and Bobby all continued in the watermelon business forming Sun State Produce Sales, Inc, and  Jones & Jones Enterprises, Inc.
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A Few Good Men – the next four inductees to the National Watermelon Hall of Fame

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The National Watermelon Association has a long history of remarkable leaders from the watermelon industry that have contributed their time, energy, and expertise to the Association and its members. 
 
The Association’s Hall of Fame has been created to honor the lives and contributions of these members, both past and present.
 
We will inaugurate the Hall of Fame and recognize the first class of inductees during the National Convention in New Orleans, February 25th-27th, 2016.
 
The following is the Class of 2016!
John Cooper
Centre, Alabama
John Cooper operated John Cooper Produce, Inc. which was founded in 1971 as a small cargo and freight service company. It was also known as Hi C Transportation and Hi C Produce & Truck Brokers.
John was a member of the Executive Committee and was an active member in the 1950s- 1970s. John Cooper was involved in the National Watermelon Association for over 30 years!

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W.W. ‘Coonbottom’ Glenn
Marianna, Florida
Woodrow was co-founder of the Florida Watermelon Association and served as its secretary and treasurer.
He was an active member in the NWA for over 31 years.
Woodrow Glenn served on the Lifetime Council of the National Watermelon Association (in 1973).
Woodrow attended and graduated from the University of Florida with a MA in 1918 and took a job in Jackson County as County Extension Director – where he worked for 30 years. Mr. Glenn retired in 1991.
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Gerald Funderburk
Jefferson, South Carolina
Gerald A Funderburk (1929-2014), of Jefferson, South Carolina was one such leader. He encouraged and advocated the advancement of others within the Association.
Although much of Mr. Funderburk’s time was spent in the wholesale selling of seeds, fertilizers, and chemicals, he made it a priority to be actively involved in both the South Carolina and National Watermelon Associations. His loyalty and service to the South Carolina Association placed him on their Lifetime Membership.
Gerald was also a leader in the National Watermelon Association serving on the Executive Committee and later on the Council in 2006. Mentors like Gerald Funderburk, make membership in the National Watermelon Association a meaningful and valuable experience.
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C.C. Winkler
Vincennes, Indiana
In February 19, 1921, at the 7th annual meeting of the Association, CC Winkler was listed among the Executive Committee members in attendance of the Melon Distributors Association in Vincennes, Indiana.
In April of 1926 at the 12th annual meeting, CC Winkler was Chairman of the Executive Committee and was elected President of the Association.
In July of 2015, at the opening of the Knox County Watermelon Festival, CC Winkler, aka “Mr. Watermelon” gave away slices of watermelon with the Mayor.  He was also acted as the Grand Marshall of the watermelon festival parade. (The Knox County Watermelon Festival was inaugurated in 1957, ceased for a short time in 1961, and began again in 1963. It continues to this day as an annual tradition.)
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The National Watermelon Hall of Fame Class of 2016 – the next four!

 

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The National Watermelon Association has a long history of remarkable leaders from the watermelon industry that have contributed their time, energy, and expertise to the Association and its members. The Association’s Hall of Fame has been created to honor the lives and contributions of these members, both past and present. We will inaugurate the Hall of Fame and recognize the first class of inductees during the National Convention in New Orleans, February 25th-27th, 2016.
 
We introduce the next four in the Class of 2016:
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Tom Ayoob, JR
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Tom was known for his integrity and willingness to help others. He never hesitated to donate his time or money to the industry.
Known as the Watermelon King of Pittsburgh, and coined the phrase, ‘eats like sugar.’
Ayoob was usually the top contributor at the Watermelon Association auctions.  Tom served on the board of both the Florida and National Watermelon Associations.
A graduate from Duquesne University in 1955, Tom Ayoob spent 2 years in the Army where he coached softball.  He attended law school at Georgetown University for 1 ½ years, until his father asked him to come and take over the family business, Tom Ayoob Inc. He updated the company, improved technology, and expanded the product line.
Tom was also the president of the Pittsburgh Wholesale Produce Association at the time of his death.
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John Campbell
Lakeland, Florida
John Campbell operated Growers Marketing Service in Leesburg, Florida. Mr. Campbell was the second vice president of the Melon Distributors Association in 1937-38, and he served as the President of the National Watermelon Association prior to 1947. John also served as Chairman of the Executive Committee and the Executive Council.
In 1945, Lake, Marion, and Sumter county watermelon growers organized and formed the Watermelon Growers Association. The first president was John M Campbell – also the president of the growers’ marketing service in Leesburg at the time.
John was one of the 10 original committee members that established the original Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association in 1943.
John Campbell was known for his generosity.
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Oren Childers
Cordell, Georgia
Oren Childers operated Cedar Creek Melons in Crisp County – just outside Cordele, Georgia.
He served as National Watermelon Association President 1985-6. He was in leadership roles for the Association from 1983-1988, and served as an Executive Council member in his later years.
Oren farmed over 3000 acres and raised watermelon on about 1000 of those acres in Crisp County.
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Al Harrison
Nogales, Arizona
The Harrison Brothers wholesale produce company was established in Los Angeles, California in early 1930s by Al and Robert Harrison.
Al Harrison bought out his brother, moved the company to Nogales, Arizona and renamed the operation Al Harrison Produce Co Distributor Inc. He perfected melon and hard squash production and packaging. Al also established an internal transportation department.
By the 1970’s, Harrison captured nearly 90% of the watermelon market in the region and soon became known as the ‘Watermelon King.’
Al Harrison had a vast concept of marketing. One example was the ‘Mile Long Railroad Freight of Watermelons’ he organized as a promotion for a Canadian chain store and received a large amount of fanfare in the early seventies.
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Meet the Hall of Fame Class of 2016

 

HOF banner with slice
The National Watermelon Association has a long history of remarkable leaders from the watermelon industry that have contributed their time, energy, and expertise to the Association and its members. The Association’s Hall of Fame has been created to honor the lives and contributions of these members, both past and present. We will inaugurate the Hall of Fame and recognize the first class of inductees during the National Convention in New Orleans, February 25th-27th, 2016.
 
The following are the second four members of  the inauguration class of 2016!
F H Dicks, Jr
Barnwell, South Carolina
FH Dicks Company of Barnwell began growing and selling watermelon in 1935.
F H served as the President of the National Watermelon Association from 1962-1963. He also served many years on the Executive Committee of the NWA. He was the President of the South Carolina Watermelon Association.
He served the community as a merchant of the General Store of Dunbarton, SC in 1951 and was Mayor in 1951.
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J D ‘Johnny’ Lowe, Jr
Henderson, Texas

Johnny operated JD Lowe Jr Co, Inc. and established the

HIGH – LOWE trademark.
He helped found the Texas Watermelon Growers and Shippers Association and served as its President. Johnny was President of the National Watermelon Association from 1970-1971.
The Association recognized him at the 1971 Convention for outstanding contributions and devotion to the National Watermelon Growers and Distributors Association. He served as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the NWA in 1971.
Johnny was a wholesale distributor of fresh fruit and vegetables.
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Vincent ‘Jim’ Vitale
Detroit, Michigan
Faro Vitale and Sons was established in the 1940s. Jim, joined his father’s business after World War II. They moved to Eastern Market and transitioned to produce.
Jim soon became known as the ‘Watermelon Man’ by the 1980s; he was selling over 24 million pounds of watermelon a year.
He served as President of the National Watermelon Association from 1980-1981. He was a Lifetime Council member of the National Watermelon Association until his death in 2007.
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Ernie Zaferis
Los Angeles, California
Ernie was a produce wholesaler and established United Melon Distributors.
Ernie was an active member of the NWA from 1965-1990. He was an active participant in the auctions and was devoted to the watermelon industry.
Zaferis Brothers Produce – initially sold produce door to door.
Touched a lot of people at his funeral there was standing room only at St Sophia’s (1500+ people) – where he was a member of the Board of Trustees.
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National Watermelon Association introduces it’s Hall of Fame Inductees of 2016

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The National Watermelon Association has a long history of remarkable leaders from the watermelon industry that have contributed their time, energy, and expertise to the Association and its members. The Association’s Hall of Fame has been created to honor the lives and contributions of these members, both past and present. We will inaugurate the Hall of Fame and recognize the first class of inductees during the National Convention in New Orleans, February 25th-27th, 2016.
 
The following are the first four members of  the inauguration class of 2016!
BG Anderson  bg anderson image
B. G Anderson Company, Eustis, Florida established 1968.
Old Dobbin Watermelons (51-27, was the special select variety of B G Anderson Company. It was expressly grown and packaged for B G Anderson by the Simpson Nursery Company of Monticello, Florida (the world’s largest growers of watermelons for seed).
Bill Knowles
Knowles and Co, Leesburg, Florida
Sergeant At Arms of the Melon Distributors Association from 1937-1938.
Bill was one of the original members of what we now call the ‘National Watermelon Association.’
“He was a registering agent for the NWA – until the Association changed its name” – Buddy Leger
Foremost Fertilizer Company est 1947
J B Easterling
(1890-1970)
JB Easterling was a watermelon broker in Montezuma, Georgia.
He was one of three founders of Southern Frozen Foods, Inc. and
Easterling Pecan Co, Inc.
JB was one of the oldest members of the NWA.
He served on the Executive Committee and Executive Council of the  National Watermelon Association.
Bob Dietz

(1927-2000)

Bob Dietz, R H Dietz and Sons Inc – established in 1967 in Chicago, Illinois.
Bob was known as the “Watermelon King of Chicago.” He received the Auction Watermelon King Buyer Award 1976, 1977, and  1984.
Bob served 24 years on the Executive Committee and Council for the National Watermelon Association.
Bob also held the world record for watermelon large seed spitting at 66 feet and 3 inches!
 Every Monday, for the next seven (7) weeks, we will familiarize you with each member of this inaugural class.