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Produce veteran Bill Halstead dies from fall

Produce industry veteran William Halstead, 66, died Friday, June 24, after breaking his neck in a fall several days earlier.

“Bill was a good, old-fashioned produce guy who adapted well in the ever-changing produce industry,” said long-time friend John McCann, who is vice president of sales at Del Monte Fresh Produce in Bloomfield, NJ.

Mr. Halstead was born Feb. 3, 1945, and graduated from Villanova University in 1967. Shortly thereafter, he followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., according to Mr. McCann. He remained at A&P for about a decade. There, he developed a friendship with longtime retailer and columnist for The Produce News Ron Pelger of RonProCon, who at the time was also early in his A&P career.

“Bill was a great guy. I remember when I first met him. He was working for the national produce division, and I was working at the A&P office in Ohio,” said Mr. Pelger. “He flew out to Cleveland, and we spent a few days together. He was a very nice guy. That was in the early ‘70s, and we remained friends ever since. Everyone liked him and respected him.”

Early in his career, Mr. Halstead became a banana specialist, and after he left A&P in 1978, he spent the next 26 years working for some of the top banana companies in the country: 13 years with Chiquita, nine years with Pacific Fruit and four years with Del Monte. With each firm, he filled a top sales executive position.

It was when he was with Chiquita throughout the 1980s that he hired Mr. McCann, and years later, the two worked together again at Del Monte in the early part of this past decade. “He was very well respected by his colleagues throughout the industry,” Mr. McCann said.

In 2005, Mr. Halstead joined Los Angeles-based Davalan Sales and worked from the firm’s Kennett Square, PA, office as vice president of sales of tropical fruit. He held that position at the time of his death.

John McAleavey, executive director of the Eastern Produce Council, said, “Bill was a loyal supporter of the Eastern Produce Council for many years. I can’t remember him missing an event over the last 20 years. He was a great guy that everyone liked.”

In fact, it was after attending an EPC event June 18 that Mr. Halstead fell and injured himself.

Mr. Halstead is survived by his wife, Chris, their two sons, Billy and Mark, and their families, including five grandchildren.