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Walter Mills Tindell, who for some 14 years presided over Blue Anchor, an agricultural packing and marketing cooperative that was long a dominant force in the California fruit industry, died Tuesday, Aug. 3, in Sacramento, after a prolonged illness. He was 81.

Mr. Tindell was born May 25, 1929, in Lodi, CA, graduated from Lodi High School attended the University of California-Berkeley, where he met Barbara Green who would become his wife of 59 years.

In 1952, Mr. Tindell went to work for the Placerville Fruit Growers Exchange as assistant manager and later directed that company's extensive cooling and packing facilities.

In 1969, he was named president of Blue Anchor Inc. (formerly the California Fruit Exchange), a position he held until around 1982.

Dave Parker, now director of marketing for Scattaglia Growers & Shippers in Traver, CA, was hired by Mr. Tindell at Blue Anchor in 1972 and worked for the cooperative for 16 seasons.

"Everybody that worked for [Mr. Tindell just loved the guy," Mr. Parker told The Produce News. "He was a charismatic leader, but he was also modest."

"I thought the world of Walt," said Pat Sanguinetti, himself a former president of Blue Anchor who spent 38 years working for the organization.

"Blue Anchor went through some very tough times," Mr. Sanguinetti said. "But I think Walt, in his presidency, recognized how rapidly the industry was changing, and he tried to get the cooperative structure to change with the quality requirements, the volume requirements, and the quality control necessary to survive" with large retail chains "taking over the buying trade." Mr. Tindell "made many decisions trying to increase our volume and our quality, and some worked and some didn't," but "I think overall he recognized what was coming in the produce industry … as early as anybody."

Mr. Tindell is survived by his wife Barbara, daughters Rebecca and Sara; sons Walter and Peter Tindell; and eight grandchildren.