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Paul Dempsey, national food service manager and senior sales representative for The Oppenheimer Group, died Aug. 20 following a two-and-a-half year battle with cancer. He was 44.

Mr. Dempsey joined Oppenheimer's Los Angeles office in December 2001 as a sales representative specializing in foodservice. He moved to the company’s Chicago sales location in 2007. Prior to joining Vancouver, BC- based Oppenheimer, he spent 12 years with Dole Fresh Fruit Co. in Laguna Hills, CA.

While at Oppenheimer, Mr. Dempsey spearheaded the company’s foodservice business for nearly a decade. It grew exponentially under his watch, especially as he dedicated his efforts to private-label programs for large foodservice customers on various items, according to David Smith, vice president of sales.

Mr. Dempsey also lent significant support and leadership to the marketer’s pineapple and citrus categories, working diligently with pineapple growers in Ecuador and Costa Rica, and orange producers in Australia to bring their products into Oppenheimer’s product line.

"Paul was the ultimate produce person," Mr. Smith said in an Aug. 25 press release. “His customers and grower contacts alike came to rely on his product knowledge, his market savvy and his understanding of their needs. He enjoyed excellent relationships, and thanks to the humor he’d always inject into the conversation, people could count on a good laugh.”

Mr. Dempsey will be remembered by colleagues as passionate and personable, and as someone who cared deeply about his family and work. He also will be remembered for being a staunch supporter of his favorite sports teams from his hometown of Chicago.

“When Paul was living in Los Angeles and the Cubs came to town, it was like he was going on vacation,” Mr. Smith recalled in the press release. “I always admired his ability to gain great enjoyment from small things. Something that might seem 'everyday’ to other people, like a baseball game, was a really big deal to Paul. And he made things more fun just by being part of them.”

Mr. Dempsey was active in the Fresh Produce & Floral Council while he lived in the Los Angeles area, and was a regular participant at the annual PMA Foodservice conference and exposition, where he coordinated Oppenheimer’s presence at the show for several years.

Mr. Dempsey is survived by his wife, Laura; a daughter, Olivia, 11; and a son, Sean, 8.

Memorial services were scheduled for Aug. 27 in Lombard, IL. Memorial donations may be made to the American Cancer Society/Paul Dempsey Memorial Fund.