Bill Lipman, the last remaining founding member of the family that launched the Six L’s Packing Co. tomato empire in Immokalee, FL, died May 19 at age 88.
Known as “Mr. Bill” to company employees, he served as a mentor and role model and was still a regular presence at Six L’s headquarters until his death.
The announcement of Mr. Lipman’s death was made by Chief Executive Officer Kent Shoemaker. Through his legacy, Mr. Shoemaker said, Mr. Lipman will live on as an industry leader and inspiration.
“Mr. Bill was instrumental in the building of Six L’s and our related businesses. His leadership in sales and administration set a tone of excellence that we continue to strive for. His passion for the business was evidenced by his desire to work here … literally until the end of his amazing life,” Mr. Shoemaker said in a May 19 company statement.
The statement also said that Mr. Lipman was “part of what one writer referred to as the ‘greatest generation.’ He lived through world wars, the Great Depression and amazing advancements in the world. Bill worked hard to build a business that is recognized as an industry leader. Bill did not work for personal gain. His satisfaction came from being part of a thriving business. He was not impressed with personal wealth. Instead he was passionate about the success of Six L’s. The hard work of Bill and others is the core reason for our continued success. His sacrifice built the foundation that allows us to stand firm today.”
Mike Stuart, president of Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association in Maitland, FL, told The Produce News that Mr. Lipman “was an icon in the Florida vegetable industry whose passion for the business drove the success of Six L's. He'll be sorely missed.”
Reggie Brown, executive director of the Florida Tomato Committee in Maitland, FL, said Mr. Lipman’s passing represents the end of an era.
“I was down there [at Six L’s] this spring and had the fortune and pleasure of running into Bill, who was still coming into the office and watching the business grow,” Mr. Brown said. “He was coming in fairly regularly to check on things. And that’s not really unique for people in this industry who put their lifelong commitment into building a business. In the produce business, you rarely see any of them walk away. It’s through the leadership and commitment of people like Mr. Bill that family businesses are built that make the produce business as dynamic and as strong as it is today.”
Six L’s growth and success is “a tribute to that generation that’s pretty much almost gone in these businesses any more,” Mr. Brown continued. “L.J. Nobles passed away a year or so ago. Dan McClure we lost two or three years ago, Mr. Peter Harlee a decade or more ago now. That generation represented the kind of dedication and commitment to the family and the business that builds businesses that are as strong and dynamic as Six L’s. Mr. Bill‘s passing is a great loss to the produce industry, Florida tomatoes and the state of Florida.”