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Colorado potato veteran James Tonso has died

by Lora Abcarian | March 24, 2010
Corado's potato industry is mourning the loss of James T. Tonso, who died March 5 at the San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center in Alamosa, CO. He was 85.

Mr. Tonso was born Sept. 12, 1924, the eighth of nine children born to Joseph and Johanna Tonso of Florence, CO. Mr. Tonso and his wife, Leila, were married for 60 years and raised their family in Center, CO.

The owner and operator of Cañon Potato Co., one of the San Luis Valley's premiere producers of fresh potatoes, James Tonso believed in hard work and dedication, and today family members carry on the tradition.

Jim Ehrlich, executive director of the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee in Monte Vista, CO, said that Mr. Tonso's contributions to the potato industry were important.

"He was instrumental in the development of the modern potato-shipping industry in the San Luis Valley and left a proud family legacy in Cañon Potato Company," Mr. Ehrlich said.

Mr. Tonso served on the boards of directors of the San Luis Valley Shippers Association and the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee.

"He was a special man who was passionate about the San Luis Valley and its potato industry," Mr. Tonso's son, David, said of his father.

Mr. Tonso was actively involved in his community and was a member of both the Elks Lodge and the Knights of Columbus. He also served on the Center town board and was a member of the board of directors of the First National Bank of Center.

An outdoorsman who enjoyed hunting, fishing and golfing, Mr. Tonso also served on the boards of Ducks Unlimited, Pearl Lakes Trout Club, Ports of Call and the Airplane Owner & Pilots Association. He also served with the Ski Hi Stampede Committee.

Mr. Tonso is survived by his children: James and his wife, Sandy, of Rio Verde, AZ; Steven and his wife, Kathy Thomas, of Center, CO; David of Monte Vista, CO; and Nancy L. Sasaki and her husband, Collin, of Littleton, CO. He is also survived by a sister, Katherine Kane, of Littleton, CO., as well as 13 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife of 60 years, Leila; two sons, Thomas and Michael; and two daughters, Virginia L. Tonso Kopfman and Judith A. Tonso.

A funeral mass for Mr. Tonso, who was cremated, was held March 8 at St. Francis Jerome Catholic Church in Center. Mr. Tonso's family will hold a private family graveside service in Cañon City, CO, in the near future.

Those wishing to honor Mr. Tonso's memory are requested to make a contribution to the Catholic Relief Fund or the American Heart Association care of the Rogers Family Mortuary, 205 State Ave., Alamosa, CO, 81101.