Retired Lt. Col. Jesse Raybourn, former vice president of information services for the Produce Marketing Association, died Thursday, July 21, at Christiana Hospital in Newark, DE. The Exton, PA, resident was 86.Lt. Col. Raybourn began his career with PMA — then known as the Produce Packaging & Marketing Association — in 1967, with responsibility for the dissemination of packaging and marketing information and the production of all association publications. Specifically, PMA valued his production of a 16mm film titled “Careers in Produce,” that aimed at attracting young talent to the industry. He retired from the association in 1984.
Before his career with PMA, Lt. Col. Raybourn served 26 years in the U.S. Army Air Corps including active duty in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He was recognized with the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf clusters, the Air Medal with four clusters, and the State of Delaware’s Distinguished Service Cross.
In May 2003, Lt. Col. Raybourn took part in an official celebration by the governments of the United States and Russia of the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Poltava, Russia, which marked the end of the the Soviet Union’s involvement in World War II. He was flown to Moscow to be part of a commemorative celebration in Red Square where he was honored by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. A celebration on U.S. soil was held in Washington, DC, at the Russian Embassy and at the World War II Memorial, where Lt. Col. Raybourn was honored by President George W. Bush.
Born in Clovis, NM, Lt. Col. Raybourn was the son of the late Claud Raybourn and Mary Elizabeth Mayes Raybourn. He was one of seven children raised on a ranch outside of town. Upon graduation from Clovis High School, he was offered a football scholarship to the University of New Mexico, but with World War II raging, he instead enlisted in the service.
“I owe Jesse a great debt: He was the one who hired me in 1983, putting a lot of faith in a youngster who knew little about associations or the produce industry,” Bryan Silbermann, PMA president and chief executive officer, said in an Aug. 9 statement from the association. “Jesse made a significant impact at PMA, collecting vital information for members in an era before the Internet made information so readily accessible. His service to PMA and his country is a testament to his commitment always to do the right thing and to take pride in his work on behalf of others.”
In retirement, Lt. Col. Raybourn was a season ticket holder for the University of Delaware varsity football program, as well as an avid golfer and a longtime member of the Newark Country Club. He was active in the Masonic order and was a senior member of the Scottish Rite. He and his family were also members of the Newark United Methodist Church.
Lt. Col. Raybourn is survived by his wife, Nita Mae Walker Raybourn; one son, Michael Raybourn; two daughters, Susan Raybourn Klein and Laura Raybourn; grandchildren, Ben, Adam, Alix and Noelle; and great-grandchildren, Vanessa, Sarina, Addi and Jilli.
Services were Aug. 2 at the Spicer-Mullikin Funeral Home in Newark, followed by burial with full military honors in Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Bear, DE.