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GLENNVILLE, GA -- Raymond D. Bland, a founder of Bland Farms and one of the early sweet onion farmers in this famed onion production region, died Feb. 19. He was 81.

"He had been disabled for about four years - bedridden," said Delbert Bland, his only son with whom he founded Bland Farms LLC in 1982. Born in 1927, Raymond Bland grew up and remained in the Vidalia onion- producing area of south Georgia all his life. "People around here don't migrate around too much," said Michael Hively, chief financial officer and general manager of Bland Farms.

Mr. Bland was one of the early pioneers of the area's renowned sweet onion trade and was a farmer in the area dating back to 1948. When he and his son founded Bland Farms and began growing sweet onions, "he said he didn't mind growing them, but he wanted nothing to do with selling them," said Delbert Bland. "So he started growing them and I started selling them." Raymond Bland "semi-retired" in 1990 and continued to work with Bland Farms as a consultant until a few years ago. He suffered from heart trouble and kidney failure among other health concerns, ultimately succumbing to the physical challenges of many afflictions.

"He probably worked faster and worked harder than most, so he just wore out," said Delbert Bland.

Raymond Bland married his wife of 60 years, Rubye Jean Bradley Bland, who grew up about two miles from his adolescent home, on Aug. 14, 1948, and who survives him. They had four children: Shirley Bland Waters (married to Hal Waters), Hollie Bland Durrence (married to Willie Durrence), Delbert (married to Sandra), and Fay Bland Williams (married to Chan Williams). He is also survived by nine grandchildren; 11 great-grandchildren; a brother, Bobby Bland; and a sister, Katie Lee Futch.

He was a hunter, and he "really liked walking and riding with Mama in the truck," said Delbert Bland.

He was honored by his professional peers many times, including being named Vidalia Sweet Onion Grower of the Year in 1995 and being inducted into the Sweet Onion Hall of Fame in 2006. He was the deacon of Pineview Baptist Church in Reidsville, GA, where funeral services were held Feb. 21.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that any donations in his honor be made to the Pineview Baptist Church Building Fund. Donations can be arranged by calling at 912/654-2449.