Bill Lipman, last of the Six L’s founders, diesThe last of the founders of Six L’s and Lipman family empire has died.

Bill Lipman, 88, died May 19. Along with his brothers, brothers-in-law and father, Lipman helped start Immokalee, Fla.-based Six L’s Packing Co. from a 40-acre farm that later blossomed into one of the largest U.S. field-grown tomato grower-shippers and repackers.

Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Maitland-based Florida Tomato Exchange, worked with Bill Lipman when Brown was a Collier County extension agent during the early and mid-1980s. Brown said he last saw Lipman in the Six L’s office earlier this spring and said Lipman was visiting the office every week.

“Bill was a significant contributor to the development of the company,” Brown said. “Each of those family members, especially that older generation that gave birth to the company, they deserve all the credit for putting it together and working through the trials and tribulations in establishing itself as a viable enterprise. Looking at their stature in the marketplace, it was all that work that generation did and the success they had that the company has been able to build what it is today.”

Along with their father, Max Lipman, brothers Arby Lipman, Bill Lipman and Louis Lipman and three brothers-in-law, Saul Brody, Jerry Fradin and David Harris, founded Six L’s in 1950 after Max Lipman — who had worked as a New York produce merchant since 1918 — moved to Florida.

Known as Mr. Bill, Bill Lipman served as a mentor and role model to many Six L’s employees Lipman Family Cos. officials said in a May 19 news release.

Kent Shoemaker, Lipman’s chief executive officer, credited Bill Lipman for helping make Six L’s what he says is the largest North American field-grown tomato grower.

“Mr. Bill was instrumental in the building of Six L’s and our related businesses,” Shoemaker said in the release. “His leadership in sales and administration set a tone of excellence that we continue to strive for. His passion for the business was evidenced by his desire to work here … literally until the end of his amazing life.”

A major Florida tomato and vegetable operation, Six L’s expanded to growing and packing operations throughout the Eastern Seaboard and to California and Mexico. The Lipman’s repacking operation, Custom Pak, has facilities in California, Tennessee, North Carolina and Maryland.