(April 19) Carl Fields, who helped transform a family farm into the country’s largest grower-shipper and marketer of mushrooms, died April 16 of a massive heart attack. He was 52.

Fields, vice president of marketing for Monterey Mushrooms Inc., Watsonville, Calif., collapsed after eating dinner with his wife, Charlean, said Shah Kazemi, the company’s president and chief executive officer. Fields had suffered from heart arrhythmia, Kazemi said.

“Carl was intelligent, compassionate, devoted, dedicated — I don’t have enough suplerlatives in my vocabulary to describe him,” Kazemi said. “He was the best of the best. He’ll be missed but never forgotten.”

Fields joined Monterey in 1980 and played a vital role, Kazemi said, in its metamorphosis from a single-site company that shipped 10 million pounds of mushrooms annually into a multinational company that shipped 200 million pounds.

“Carl was an exceptionally talented individual,” Kazemi said. “He was totally instrumental in the growth of our company.”

Fields was at the center of Monterey’s product development, promotional tie-ins, marketing, advertising and biotechnology programs, Kazemi said. He played a lead role in development of the company’s “Clean N Ready” line of washed, packaged mushrooms, which went on the market in 2001.

Fields held numerous industry leadership positions. He was a member of the Fruit & Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee and a past member of the Produce Marketing Association’s board of directors and foundation board.

In January 2001, he was appointed by Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman to administer the Dublin, Calif.-based Mushroom Council’s national promotion and research program.

In honor of Fields, a Monterey program that awards scholarships to the children of its employees will be renamed the Carl Fields Scholarship Program, Kazemi said. The program will award $100,000 in scholarships this year.

A memorial service for Fields will be April 25 in Monterey. Funeral services will be May 2 in Los Angeles.

Fields is survived by his wife, Charlean, of Los Angeles.