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Jim Hadley, president, chief executive officer and partner of Harold Crawford Co. Inc. in Bakersfield, CA, died Feb. 20, just one month after undergoing surgery for colon cancer. He was 66.

"It was sudden," said Harold Crawford, the company's founder and chairman of the board. “He had surgery, and 32 days later he was gone.”

Mr. Hadley had been with the company for about seven years and had been president and CEO since January 2008. Previously, “he was a consultant for us for about five years,” Mr. Crawford said.

Born Jan. 27, 1944 in Detroit, Mr. Hadley spent 28 years with Fred Meyer Co., a Portland, OR-based retail chain, eventually leaving to start his own consulting business.

“He was a produce merchandiser for eight of those 28 years” at Fred Meyer, Mr. Crawford said. “That is how we first knew him, because we bought for Fred Meyer for 22 years, and during part of that time, he was our boss. He was in charge of produce procurement, and we bought for them.”

After five years of consulting for Harold Crawford Co., Mr. Hadley joined the company as a partner. “I talked him into buying into our company,” Mr. Crawford said.

“He did a good job in helping our company to grow,” Mr. Crawford added. “We [now] have an office in Florida, one in Salinas [CA], one in Bend, OR, and one in Philadelphia” in addition to the Bakersfield headquarters, “so we really expanded since he came.”

Harold Crawford Co., which is basically a broker that buys for major chainstores, also has a wholly owned subsidiary called Harvest Crown, which Mr. Hadley “developed into an importing [business],” bringing in product mainly from Mexico and South America, Mr. Crawford said.