(Feb. 4) WATSONVILLE, Calif. — William Sambrailo died doing one of the things he loved best.

On Jan. 31, while on a skiing trip in Jackson Hole, Wyo., Sambrailo, chairman of the board of Watsonville-based Sambrailo Packaging, suffered a fatal heart attack. He was 76.

Born in Watsonville in 1927, Sambrailo inherited the packaging business from his father, Charles, in 1963. During his 40 years in the business, Sambrailo made a number of contributions to the produce industry, certainly not the least of which was coming up with the idea to use clamshell packaging for produce.

“He came up with the idea of putting raspberries in a clamshell in 1987,” said Mark Sambrailo, William’s son, who now runs the business along with his brother, Michael. “Any plastic containers being used at that time were two-piece containers for brussels sprouts.”

William Sambrailo was well known as an adventurous man. He played on the high school football team in Watsonville. In college, at Santa Clara University, he played running back for the football team and even went to the Orange Bowl. After college, he played on a semipro football team in Santa Cruz.

Mark Sambrailo said his father always wanted to be a cowboy. He bought a ranch in Aromas in 1952, raised Hereford cattle and competed in rodeos and bull-riding events. He also sold apples from the orchard on his ranch.

Skiing was another passion that Sambrailo enjoyed for 60 years, in spite of some close calls.

In 1974, for example, he was caught in an avalanche that carried him for three miles and killed another skier. Also that year, he fell off a 20-foot cliff while skiing and walked away with a bruised hip.

He also enjoyed river rafting, biking, hang gliding and mountain climbing. In 2000, at age 73, he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa in a climb that claimed the lives of two climbers.

“He was definitely adventurous,” Mark Sambrailo said. “He sort of had that cowboy mentality all along.”

Sambrailo was actively involved in all levels of his life — from founding a bank in 1983 to starting a Pop Warner football team in Pajaro Valley.

He is survived by his wife, Eilleen; three children — Mark, Judy and Michael; two stepchildren; and five grandchildren. Services are scheduled for Feb. 6.

Donations in his memory can be made to the St. Francis Central Coast High School Foundation, Moreland Notre Dame High School, the Pajaro Valley Historical Association or the Jean & Ed Kelly Foundation.