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Jack V. Pandol, chairman emeritus of Pandol Bros. in Delano, CA, died in his sleep Wednesday, Aug. 4, "after an extended battle with Alzheimer's disease." He died at home, "surrounded by many family members," according to a written statement furnished by the family. He was 87.

"Jack was a fixture in agricultural and produce marketing industry groups worldwide, Central California politics and local charities," the statement continued. "He was known as a world traveler" and also as "'the guy who ran the kitchen' for countless social, political, industry and charitable events." Mr. Pandol was born June 20, 1923, in Orange Cove, CA, the son of Steve and Margaret Pandol, immigrants from the island of Hvar, Croatia, then part of Hapsburg Austria.

"He attended Reedley High School and began to work with his father after he finished school,” the statement noted. “Jack served in the U.S. Army 25th Infantry Division during [World War II] from 1944 to 1946, seeing combat in the Philippines and serving in the occupational force in Japan after the war. He achieved the rank of tech sergeant and several commendations. Jack did not receive his Purple Heart during the war, but it was presented to him in a ceremony on his 70th birthday."

In 1946, Mr. Pandol returned to Delano and joined his father and younger brothers on the family farm. In 1948, "he married Winifred Zaninovich of Porterville and settled in rural Delano, having four children over the next 11 years," the statement noted.

During the 1950s, Mr. Pandol began selling grapes for the family farm and also selling wine from the local growers' cooperative, according to the statement. He was "part of waves of innovation of the produce industry. In the 1950s he began with direct f.o.b. sales, a radical departure of the terminal- market auctions of the era. In the 1960s, Jack loaded the first refrigerated trucks cross country, bypassing railroads."

By the 1970s, he had "established a foothold in export markets, utilizing cargo jets, traditional refrigerated ships and the innovative ocean containers for both import and export."

In the 1980s Mr. Pandol "put together partnerships and alliances in Asia and Latin America, committing product, money and expertise to develop international produce trade," the statement added. He was named a member board of the Produce Marketing Association, and "so unique was his contribution" that PMA "kept him on the board for an unprecedented four years" while he developed that organization's international division. In the 1990s, Mr. Pandol "embraced the new selling environment whereby Pandol Brothers Inc. was actually managing customers' inventories and utilizing the then new Internet-based tools to manage customer accounts, although he himself did not use computers.”

From the 1960s through the 1990s, Mr. Pandol was actively involved in central California politics. He "hosted, cooked for or sold tickets to countless campaign events, and was on a first-name basis with a generation of politicians,” according to the statement. “He was appointed to a variety of state boards, committees and commissions by Governors Ronald Reagan, George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson as well as several federal appointments."

Well known as a globetrotter, Mr. Pandol "spent as much as four months of the year abroad." He embraced "what is today called public diplomacy. The items collected on the walls and shelves of his office were as much testament to his travel as the stamped passports and piles of foreign coins in his desk. Pictures of Jack with several foreign heads of state adorn the walls."

He received recognition from several foreign leaders. Among them, "in October of 2009, Jack was bestowed Chile's highest honor, the Bernardo O'Higgins Presidential Order of Merit from the Chilean government. The Order of O'Higgins is awarded by Chile to foreign citizens that have displayed extraordinary contribution to the arts, sciences, education, industry, business, or humanitarian and social cooperation. The order has five ranks of honor, and Jack was awarded the highest rank, the rank of Grand Cruz (Grand Cross), putting him in the company of heads of state, high ranking diplomats, Nobel laureates and other distinguished persons," according to the statement.

Mr. Pandol loved to cook, especially for a crowd, "the bigger the better. For decades, Jack was part of groups such as the Delano Agribusiness luncheons and the Superb BBQ Committee, where a dozen or so volunteers cooked for hundreds." In the office, if a few salesmen came in to work on Saturday, it served as an excuse for him "to fire up the stove." Campaign fundraisers and Chamber of Commerce events, picnic gatherings of the Central California Slavs, the Delano High wrestling team boosters, St. Mary's Catholic Church, and countless charities "benefited from Jack's willingness to put on an apron for a cause," the statement added.

If there is one cause that "stands out in Jack's life," according to the statement, it would be the Boy Scouts of America. "Jack cooked for the annual BSA Southern Sierra Council dinner for decades," and he made donations to Scouting "in lieu of flowers for many funerals." In May 1998, the Boy Scouts of America "awarded Jack the Great American Award, Scouting's highest honor." Mr. Pandol is survived by his wife of 62 years, Winifred Pandol, his sons Stephen, Jack J., and Jim Pandol, his daughter Maria Zebrowski, and five grandchildren.