Al Gotelli, a third-generation cherry grower and co-founder and president emeritus of O-G Packing Co. in Stockton, CA, died in his Stockton home Nov. 25 following a long illness. He was 80.
Regarded by his peers as an industry innovator and leader, Mr. Gotelli helped establish the California Cherry Advisory Board and is also credited with helping to develop and market the industry's first mechanical cluster cutter and cherry sizer.
According to a company history on the O-G Packing web site, the Gotelli family "emigrated from Italy in the early 1900s to settle and plant cherries along the Calaveras River in California. As the markets for sweet cherries grew, the Gotelli family expanded and grew to meet the market demand."
Mr. Gotelli's son, Tom Gotelli, who is production manager at O-G Packing, told The Produce News Dec. 8 that his father, in partnership with "his brother Del Gotelli, who is five years younger, & started with one ranch of cherries" in the early 1950s. In 1954, in partnership with John and Mel Oneto, the brothers formed Oneto-Gotelli Packing. Twenty years later, the partnership dissolved and the two Gotelli brothers continued in business, changing the name to O-G Packing, reflecting their "O-G" brand.
Today, "O-G Packing employs over 2,000 workers during the season and packs well over 1 million boxes of cherries during a normal growing season" as well as blueberries and apricots, according to the company's web site.
The firm currently grows cherries not only in California's Stockton-Linden- Lodi area but also in Bakersfield, CA, and in Washington state's Yakima Valley, according to Tom Gotelli.
The senior Mr. Gotelli served as president of O-G Packing until about two- and-a-half years ago, when he was given emeritus status and his brother Del Gotelli was named president, Tom Gotelli said.
The cluster cutter and sizer that was developed, patented and manufactured by the Gotellis and Onetos became widely used throughout the industry not only in California but in other states as well, and even in other countries, he said.
A graduate of the University of California-Davis, Mr. Gotelli also served in the U.S. Air Force. Active in industry affairs, he served on the boards or committees of several industry organizations.
Mr. Gotelli is survived by his wife of 53 years, Patricia Jane Milligan Gotelli, two daughters, two sons and 11 grandchildren.
A memorial service was held Wednesday, Dec. 9, at Temple Baptist Church in Lodi.