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Ruben Shives, sales manager for the Edinburg Citrus Association and a former U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector in the Rio Grande Valley and a Safeway buyer and inspector in various locations across the country, died Nov. 20 following an illness. He was 55.

Mr. Shives began his sales career with ECA in 1995 and over the years was a driving force in the company, well known in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and beyond.

"Those that knew Ruben001Ruben ShivesRuben well also knew that he was the same both in and out of the sales office — full of life," said Paula Fouchek, director of marketing at the ECA. "Rube was known for his bigger-than-life personality and an infectious laugh that filled the room. He'd greet his customers with a 'Hey, pappy,' and while conducting business would still take the time to be involved with them personally."

Mr. Shives often referred to himself as a "workhorse," a role he embodied daily. After a dozen years with ECA, he was named sales manager in 2008 and was respected for his strong work ethic, fairness and integrity. He was a mentor to younger sales staff and relished the role.

"Ruben's customers were his friends and it's been said that on the road of life, it's not necessarily where you're going but the friends you make along the way that really matter," Ms. Fouchek said. "Ruben had so many friends in the produce industry who cared deeply for him. Certainly that is also true for his colleagues at Edinburg Citrus. Ruben invested himself in ECA and he told me that he truly felt that ECA was where he was meant to be. He loved produce and he loved being at ECA and we loved the opportunity to work with him. He will be greatly missed. It has to be said that there are people that shine and have the ability to draw people to them and Ruben was that type of person. He has left an indelible impression on his Edinburg Citrus family, friends in the industry and customers across the country.

Mr. Shives was also a dedicated Little League baseball coach and "was such a positive influence on so many kids," Ms. Fouchek said. "He was firm but fair and was a great teacher. The kids respected him — he was able to pull the best out of them."

Mr. Shives is survived by his wife Belen, son Ruben, daughter Melissa, five grandchildren and a large extended family. A memorial service was held Nov. 24 to celebrate his life.