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Dennis Latina, a longtime leader of Philadelphia's fruit import industry, died suddenly at home Oct. 23, one day after celebrating his 60th birthday with family and friends.

Mr. Latina was vice president of Delaware River Stevedores Inc., based in Philadelphia. Mr. Latina "was a well-known figure on the docks from Tioga Terminal in Philadelphia to the port of Wilmington in a long and successful career in the shipping industry," according to a DRS press release. "He was recognized as a strategic thinker in world trade with an expertise in terminal management with perishable and project cargoes."

DRS President Robert Palaima told The Produce News Nov. 2 that he and Mr. Latina enjoyed lunch with representatives of the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority on Oct. 22. Mr. Latina "was upbeat about the upcoming season," said Mr. Palaima. "His boys took him out for his birthday dinner, and they watched the ball game that Thursday night. He woke up to go to the bathroom, and his wife found him there Friday morning." Mr. Latina had died apparently of a heart attack.

There was "no indication" of health problems, Mr. Palaima said. "Dennis was a runner, a bicyclist -- he watched his weight and never smoked. He really took good care of himself."

On the work side, Mr. Palaima called Mr. Latina "irreplaceable," adding, "He was as kind and thoughtful of a person as I ever met. He was a perfect representative for our company, whether he was in Berlin, Santiago or Cape Town. He was a perfect representative for our industry and our country. He was fair, he listened and was thoughtful. He had great [port] operational experience. He was really interested in our customers and solving problems and coming up with solutions. He will be sorely missed."

Mr. Palaima said that Mr. Latina's father worked at the port of Wilmington, DE, and that "Dennis grew up on the waterfront. He was smart, fair, funny and kind. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who had an ill word to say about Dennis."

Mr. Palaima closed his comments: "It is hard for me. This is still kind of raw. We will sorely miss him. From our staff, the laborers and executives, we are dedicating this season to Dennis."

Mr. Latina lived in Wilmington, where he was born Oct. 22, 1949. He attended St. Peter's Elementary School and graduated from De La Warr High School in New Castle, DE. He also attended the University of Delaware and was an officer in the port of Wilmington Maritime Society.

According to DRS: "He had formed many friendships both professional and personal through his work. Those friendships included crane operators and longshoremen as well as shippers and international businessmen from across the world. ... The greatest joys in Dennis' life, however, were his relationship with his loving wife, Natasha, and his four sons. His happiest moments were time spent at his children's soccer games, beach vacations, backyard sports and watching Eagles and Phillies games with his family."

Mr. Latina is survived by his wife of 12 years, Natasha Alekseyeva Latina, and his sons, Pasha, 22, Sasha, 8, Andre, 5, and Nikolai 2, all at home. He is also survived by his brothers, Chip Latina of Hockessin and Robert Latina of Florida, as well as many aunts, uncles, nieces, cousins, other relatives and friends. He was predeceased by his parents, Catherine and Alfonzo Latina, and his sister, Marie Latina Aceto, and her husband, Joseph Aceto.

Mr. Latina was a parishioner at St. Ann's Parish. A mass of Christian burial was celebrated Oct. 29 at St. Ann's Catholic Church in Wilmington with entombment at Cathedral Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Latina Children's Education Fund, c/o WSFS Bank, Branmar Plaza Shopping Center, 1812 Marsh Road, Wilmington, DE 19810. For on-line condolences, visit www.corletolatinafuneralhome.com.