Whole­saler brought mango farms to Cal­i­for­nia desert

HOWARD MARGULEAS, 1934 - 2017

Los Angeles Times - - OBITUARIES - By Rachel Spacek rachel.spacek@la­times.com Twit­ter: @rachelspacek

Howard Philip Marguleas, a U.S. pro­duce pi­o­neer re­spon­si­ble for in­tro­duc­ing the first Hawai­ian pineap­ples sold on the main­land and the first man­goes grown in Cal­i­for­nia, has died. He was 82.

Marguleas founded Sun World In­ter­na­tional, a pro­duce whole­saler based in Bak­ers­field, in the mid-1970s. At Sun World, Marguleas ini­ti­ated the grow­ing of seed­less wa­ter­mel­ons, La Rouge Royale sweet red pep­pers and DiVine Ripe to­ma­toes in the U.S. He also is cred­ited with in­tro­duc­ing seed­less grapes and wa­ter­mel­ons to the pro­duce bins at gro­cery stores.

Un­der his di­rec­tion, Sun World grew rapidly, with grow­ers in Mex­ico, Chile and more than 10 states.

Marguleas tasted his first mango in Sin­ga­pore; when he re­turned to the U.S. he found that the fruit was dif­fi­cult to find in stores, es­pe­cially when it was out of sea­son. In 1983, Marguleas vis­ited Is­rael, where he found man­goes grow­ing in the Dead Sea, an en­vi­ron­ment that seemed sim­i­lar to the Cal­i­for­nia desert. So Marguleas went into the mango busi­ness.

The mango trees in the Coachella Val­ley en­dured theft and harsh win­ters but even­tu­ally thrived, and Sun World planted an ad­di­tional 300 acres of the fruit trees.

Born Dec. 5, 1934, in San Francisco, Marguleas be­gan his climb to the top of the pro­duce in­dus­try af­ter he grad­u­ated from UC Berke­ley with a de­gree in agri­cul­tural econ­omy. He went to work for his fa­ther at a pro­duce mar­ket­ing com­pany, Heg­g­blade-Marguleas Co., be­fore found­ing Sun World.

In ad­di­tion to agri­cul­ture, Marguleas was an in­vestor in the Irvine Co., Or­ange County’s pow­er­ful land and real es­tate cor­po­ra­tion, and sev­eral South­ern Cal­i­for­nia golf course de­vel­op­ments. He also was a mem­ber of the Cal­i­for­nia State Board of Agri­cul­ture un­der a pair of gov­er­nors, Pat Brown and Ron­ald Rea­gan.

“Howard was a vi­sion­ary and a pi­o­neer in the pro­duce world,” said Kath­leen Nave, pres­i­dent of the Cal­i­for­nia Ta­ble Grape Com­mis­sion. “He led the way in many com­modi­ties to help ex­pand what is avail­able to con­sumers in the U.S. He was ever the op­ti­mist and a be­liever that where there was a vi­sion and a will, there is a way.”

Mar­gue­las died June 1 in Ran­cho Mi­rage af­ter suf­fer­ing com­pli­ca­tions from can­cer. He is sur­vived by his wife, Ardith; four chil­dren, David, Dianna, An­thony and Brian; and nine grand­chil­dren, Gabby, Jack, Anna, Sam, Max, Syd­ney, Maile, Melia and Oliver. Marguleas is also sur­vived by three sis­ters, Thelma Colvin, Betty New­man and Ar­lene Garfin­kle.

Jonathan Al­corn For The Times

PRO­DUCE PI­O­NEER Howard Marguleas in­tro­duced sev­eral fruit va­ri­eties to U.S. farms and shop­pers.

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