Strawberry industry veteran John German died May 5 at age 75 in Santa Cruz County, Calif.

Based in Watsonville, Calif., German was director of berry operations for Dole Fresh Vegetables from 1988 to his retirement in 2002.

Earlier he was vice president of precool and quality assurance at Driscoll’s, where he worked from 1970 to 1987.

“John was a friend for the growers, his Dole colleagues and all the people he inspected in the field,” said Ed Kelly, owner of Watsonville-base Colleen Strawberries, Inc. Kelly worked with German at a time when Dole marketed Colleen-labeled berries.

“He was an incredibly courageous man,” Kelly said. “My foremen had a lot of respect for him.”

In the 1950s, German suffered a temporary full paralysis in a vehicle rollover accident while serving with the U.S. Marine Corps in Morocco, his son Bill German said. He recovered sufficiently to walk with a cane for much of the rest of his life.

“The first time I saw him fall in a field, I rushed to pick him up,” Kelly said. “He said, ‘No, I fell by myself and I can pick myself up.’ He was always positive. He kept an upstairs office to be with colleagues.”

Steven Ware, wholesale team director at Dole Fresh Vegetables, praised German.

“He’s an industry icon who knew everything about strawberries and was one of the people who built up Driscoll’s quality program,” Ware said. “John had to go in the fields every day and tell people how to do it better without insulting anybody, and he did it in a way that left them looking forward to seeing him again. He had a great attitude and never complained. I don’t think he even parked in the handicap space.”

Memorial services were May 13 at United Presbyterian Church in Watsonville.

German is survived by his wife of 49 years, Joyce; their sons, Michael German and Bill German; sisters Jeannette Dickens and Arlene Grider; and four grandchildren.