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Chuck Hodges, a founding member of Prime Time International, dies at 71

Charles H. (Chuck) Hodges, a founder of Prime Time International in Coachella, CA, and a managing member of the company, died April 19 in his home in Palm Springs, CA, after a 16-month struggle with cancer. He was 71.

Mr. Hodges served as vice president of sales at Sun World International prior to co-founding the company now known as Prime Time in 1992.

"I met Chuck many years ago, and watched him grow and develop into an astute executive Chuck-HodgesChuck Hodgesand wonderful business partner," Carl Sam Maggio, a co-founder of Prime Time, said in the statement released by the company April 23.

"Throughout the fresh produce industry, Chuck was known as a fair, honest and reliable supplier to a broad base of customers throughout North America," the statement said. "His quick wit and lively personality endeared him to his customers, peers and employees throughout his career."

"Chuck will be sorely missed by all of us at Prime time," Mark Nickerson, another co-founder of the company, said in the statement. "He was a wonderful illustration of how to live a good life and lead by example. His unique sales skills and keen business sense enabled Prime Time to become a significant force in California agriculture."

"I worked with Chuck for many years throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, and he obviously made a lasting impression on all of us that he worked with at Sun World and Prime Time," David Marguleas, senior vice president of sourcing, licensing and research and development at Sun World, told The Produce News April 24. "He was a consummate produce professional. He had a rare gift of connecting with and understanding people's needs and personalities. He was an invaluable friend, and he was someone that our industry will remember for many, many years."

Mr. Hodges was involved in another industry at the time Mr. Maggio met him "just by chance" around 1980, according to Mike Aiton, marketing manager for Prime Time Sales LLC, the sales and marketing arm of Prime Time International.

"At that time, Carl Sam was one of the owners of Sun World, along with Cookie Bianco and Howard Marguleas," Mr. Aiton told The Produce News. "Carl Sam took an immediate liking to him, and eventually hired him to come to work in the sales department. Chuck had no background in produce, but he had been involved in a few other ventures which included selling. He came to work at Sun World in about 1980 and eventually became the vice president of sales."

During most of the 1980s, he was in charge of all the sales operations at Sun World. "Then in 1992, he left Sun World along with Carl Sam Maggio and Mark Nickerson and Skippy Tostada, they formed a new company, and that company eventually became Prime Time," said Mr. Aiton, who was also previously with Sun World and worked with Mr. Hodges for many years at both companies.

"I've known Chuck since I moved to the desert," Mr. Aiton said. "He is a terrific guy and a great mentor. The sales team loved him."

He was "a charismatic guy," Mr. Aiton continued. "He walked in the room and he had everyone's attention. He loved to take people and develop them and teach them and train them and counsel them the right ways to do things. Chuck was a very honest and fair person when it came to dealing with customers, and he insisted on that and demanded that from his employees. I think he was a very moral person, always looking to take the high ground, and he tried to develop that sense in the people he worked with."

A private funeral service was held "just for the family," Mr. Aiton said, "but there is going to be a celebration of life memorial service in Palm Springs in early June. Details are still being worked out" and will be announced.

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April 24, 2012

Rand Green / The Produce News / Oobit / Chuck Hodges

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