(Oct. 14) One of the founders of what became the California Iceberg Lettuce Commission and a former president of Irvine, Calif.-based Western Growers has died.

William “Bill” Garin, former president of The Garin Co., Salinas, and an innovator in the produce industry, died Oct. 9. He was 84.

Just this summer, Garin was awarded the second annual E.E. “Gene” Harden Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, Salinas. The award, which honored him for years of innovation and service to the produce industry, came with certificates of recognition from both houses of the California legislature.

Garin was the son of the late Henry P. Garin, who built a produce company of 30,000 acres and thousands of employees from the ground up. The H.P. Garin Co. founded in 1921, was the largest shipper of iceberg lettuce in the 1930s and 1940s, and was the first producer to use air freight and refrigerated rail cars to move produce, said Bill Garin’s son, Peter Garin.

H.P. Garin introduced the 24-head carton of lettuce and started the now-common practice of top-icing produce, which John Steinbeck wrote about in “East of Eden,” set in the Salinas Valley.

After H.P. Garin’s death, the company was split in two. H.P.’s brother, Hank Garin, managed the H.P. Garin Co., and Bill Garin managed The Garin Co. He became president in 1963 and remained in that post until the company was sold in 1983 to the R.J. Nelson Co. and he retired.

Garin is remembered by many as a personable man who took care of his employees.

“He valued employees to the point that he realized without them you wouldn’t have anything,” said Garin’s nephew, Henry Dill, sales manager for Pacific International Marketing Inc., Salinas. “He made sure they felt appreciated.”

Garin’s son said he had an entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to track cartage in his head, so he could reroute produce at the last minute to wherever it would get the best price.

Bill Garin followed in his father’s footsteps in many ways, including becoming a leader of Western Growers, Irvine. His father was a founding member of Western Growers and one of its first chairmen.

Bill Garin was one of the founding members of Western Iceberg Lettuce Inc., which later became the California Iceberg Lettuce Commission. He promoted the entire lettuce industry with little money by making iceberg lettuce the product used in any salad dressing advertisement, and almost any salad in an advertisement during the 1960s and ’70s was made with iceberg lettuce.

Peter Garin said his father pioneered the subtle visual advertisement behind the dressing.

Bill Garin did not live under H.P.’s shadow because he was an innovator of his own, Peter Garin said, but he did learn from the lessons H.P. Garin taught. Peter Garin said his dad believed that if everyone was going one way, then he should go the opposite direction.

This motto led Garin to Yuma, Ariz., where he was one of the first producers in the arid region.

“He would sit there, and I would be on the car seat, and he would be talking about planting lettuce. We’re talking about desert that smelled like tar, so hot you could see the heat waves,” Peter Garin said.

He is survived by his wife, Roberta, of Salinas; sister Elsie Dill, Salinas; daughter Anne Emmerson, Alameda, Calif.; daughter Marian O’Neal, Carmel, Calif.; daughter Noel Bock, Davenport, Calif.; son Peter Garin, San Francisco; four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Contributions in Bill Garin’s honor may be made to Heartland Hospice, 2511 Garden Road, Monterey, CA 93940, or the Salinas Valley Memorial Foundation, 450 East Romie Lane, Salinas, CA 93901.