Dewey Gargiulo, a Florida tomato pioneer, has died.

Gargiulo, 84, died May 9 after a long illness.

Gargiulo’s influence on the tomato industry exceeds Gargiulo Inc., the Naples, Fla., growing and shipping operation he founded.

Reggie Brown, manager of the Maitland-based Florida Tomato Committee and executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Exchange, credited Gargiulo was one of the original incorporators of the exchange.

Gargiulo also helped move the industry from vine-ripe production to mature green production and understood how growers could find opportunities to serve customers, said Brown, who first worked with Gargiulo during the 1980s when Brown was a county extension agent.

Dewey Gargiulo, tomato innovator, dies “That industry structure he helped create has served our industry well since that period of time,” Brown said. “His brand, the beefsteak, has become a general term in the trade, arising from the grower’s original brand in Naples during the early years.”

He was ‘not a loud leader,’ but one of those forward-thinking leaders who people thought well of and treated with respect.”

Gargiulo is survived by his wife of 63 years, Janet Gargiulo; sons Jeff Gargiulo and John Gargiulo and daughter Lisa Gargiulo; nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Gargiulo was a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II.

He entered the produce industry by working for an uncle in a Bronx, N.Y., operation before moving to Immokalee, Fla., to grow tomatoes in 1952.

Jeff and John Gargiulo remain involved in the produce industry.

Gargiulo Inc. is owned by Joseph Procacci of the Philadelphia-based Procacci Bros. Sales Corp.

The family remembered Gargiulo through a private service.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Neighborhood Health Clinic, 121 Goodlette Frank Rd., Naples, Fla., 34102, or to Avow Hospice, 1095 Whippoorwill Lane, Naples, Fla., 34105 or at