(UPDATED COVERAGE 2 p.m.): Frank Johns Jr., a former chairman of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, has died.

Johns, 63, died April 22 after a long illness.

With his wife, Polly, the longtime FFVA board member and potato grower-shipper ran Tater Farms in Hastings, Fla.

For six years, he was an officer of and on the executive committee of the Denver-based U.S. Potato Board.

Johns led the FFVA 2002-04 and was a board member for 20 years. He was on the executive committee for 11 years.

He also served on the FFVA Mutual Insurance Company’s board of directors and was a member of the University of Florida's first class of what is now known as the Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Participating in that class spurred him to become more involved in the industry, said Mike Stuart, FFVA president.

UPDATED: Frank Johns Jr., FFVA leader, diesStuart said country-of-origin rules and early food safety discussions were pressing issues during Johns’ tenure.

“He played a significant role in the organization for a number of years,” Stuart said. “Frank always handled everything with a tremendous amount of dignity. He was characterized as a gentleman farmer, which was a perfect characterization of him. His service to FFVA was a partnership with his wife, Polly, who was always at his side.”

Born in St. Augustine, Fla., Johns grew up in Hastings but returned to St. Augustine for high school and was active in 4-H and Future Farmers of America.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in food and resource economics from the University of Florida and in 1976 started Tater Farms.

Survivors include sons Carleton and Christopher; his mother, Charlotte Johns; two sisters and brother Danny Johns who owns Blue Sky Farms in Hastings, as well as many nieces and nephews.

A memorial service is scheduled at Community Bible Church, 3150 U.S. 1 South, in St. Augustine; the funeral is scheduled for April 26.

Johns' family suggests flowers or memorial donations be made to the Community Bible Church Missions Fund or to the ALS Association, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease.