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Jack Frost Fruit Co. founder Bill Gammie dies at 81

by Lora Abcarian | May 03, 2009
Members of the apple industry have lost a friend and colleague with the passing of Bill Gammie, who died April 10 at the age of 81. Mr. Gammie was the founder of the Jack Frost Fruit Co. in Yakima, WA.

Mr. Gammie, born June 6, 1927, in Hallonquist, Saskatchewan, grew up on a family farm. At the age of 17, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force. During one mission, he was captured by the Nazis, but freed three days later by soldiers in the Danish army.

As a college student, he commuted to Washington State College in Pullman from his Canadian hometown, and was involved with the school's track and football teams. Mr. Gammie graduated from the school and began working for the Washington Apple Commission, promoting apples to grocery stores throughout the United States.

In 1956, Mr. Gammie founded the Jack Frost Fruit Co. and eventually became a U.S. citizen. Jack Frost later acquired Marley Orchards. Under Mr. Gammie's direction, the company became an apple grower for Domex Superfresh Growers, also located in Yakima.

Domex Director of Marketing Loren Queen said that the two companies began their partnership a decade ago. "They represent a substantial portion of our volume," said Mr. Queen, who remembered Mr. Gammie as a "colorful individual."

"Bill Gammie was a great mentor and business partner," said Domex President Robert Kershaw. "He had a way of communicating that was unique and refreshing. You always knew where Bill stood. He was also a very giving person and took very good care of his employees. He will be sorely missed by everyone he came into contact with, including me."

Mr. Gammie was an avid storyteller and fisherman. He christened his boat, which is still moored at the Seattle Yacht Club, the Golden Delicious. Mr. Gammie is survived by his daughters Jane Gammie; Joan Reid (Tex); Lisa Plath (Rick); and Leslie Gammie; a brother Orville Stormer (Dorothy); an aunt Mame Halko; and grandchildren Shayna and Christina Cahill, Janet and Michelle Reid, and Marianne and Nick Plath.

A celebration of his life took place April 16 at the Yakima Valley Museum. Those wishing to honor Mr. Gammie may make a donation to the Washington State University Cougars football program or the Special Olympics.