Richard Leaman, a former Wal-Mart fruit category manager and Frontera Produce marketing director, died Jan. 27. He was 64.

Leaman joined Edinburg, Texas- based Frontera in 2000 after an 8-year tenure at Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart.

Leaman left Frontera three or four years ago to work for Houston-based Schoenmann Produce Co., said Will Steele, Frontera’s president.

Steele described Leaman as an old-school industry veteran with an encyclopedic knowledge of produce.

“Richard helped build Frontera into what it is today,” he said. “He’s one of the few guys where you sit back and say, ‘Why did it have to go this way?’”

Leaman’s energy, love of  challenges and sense of humor helped create a culture at Frontera that thrives today, Steele said.

“I hope the new school comes up with someone to replace Richard,” he said. “He was a unique individual, and it’s an incredible loss.” 

Leaman is survived by his mother, Zanaida Leaman; wife, Shirley; sons Chuck and Stephen; a daughter, Jennifer; brothers Philip Leaman, Chris Leaman and Eddie Marullo; a sister, Zanaida Leaman Akins; and several grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to The American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 570127, Houston, TX 77257-0127.