(March 2) Mushroom-packaging pioneer Marie Ebbecke, of Kennett Square, Pa., died Dec. 29 in West Grove, Pa., at the age of 91.

She also worked to save the Produce Marketing Association during its early years. Ebbecke, one of just a few women in the mushroom industry, was an advocate for research and education who helped develop streamlined packaging processes that would ensure longer shelf life.

Ebbecke and her husband, Hubert, owned and operated The Ebbecke’s Inc., a mushroom business in Toughkenamon, Pa., for more than 30 years.

They were among the first to pack fresh mushrooms for consumers on a large scale, and in 1948 they began researching the use of acetate film overwrap. In 1950, they added semiautomatic packaging to their operations.

“They were way ahead of their time,” said Mike Basciani, Ebbecke’s cousin and managing owner of mushroom grower-shipper Basciani Foods Inc., Avondale, Pa. “All of that stuff that we use in packing now they were using back then.”

Ebbecke and her husband sold their company to Rex Mushroom Co. in the early 1970s, but started another grower-shipper business that operated until Hubert Ebbecke’s death in 1980. Ebbecke continued research work until sometime in the early 1980s.

Ebbecke and her husband were part of a group of growers who established the American Mushroom Institute, Kennett Square, in 1955.

In 1957, Ebbecke became the first woman to serve on the board for the Produce Packaging Association, New York (now the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del.). She served as the association’s treasurer for five years.

In 1958, when the troubled association was at risk of being disbanded, Ebbecke fought to keep it going. She helped drive an Ebbecke’s mushroom truck to New York, loaded the association’s property and moved it to its new office, which was in an old barbershop in Newark, according to a 1993 guest column in THE PACKER by Bob Bull, former PMA chairman.

Ebbecke was born to Luigi and Rosaria Basciani in 1914 in New York. She married Hubert Ebbecke in 1932 and earned a degree from West Chester (Pa.) State Teachers College in 1934.

She worked as a ship fitter in Delaware during World War II. After the war, she was an assistant estimating engineer for an iron works company.

Ebbecke is survived by two daughters, Joan Devine and her husband, Peter, and Patricia Reitmeyer and her husband, Dan. She also leaves six grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.