(UPDATED COVERAGE Aug. 29) Roger Jones, former president of Rupert, Idaho-based Rolland Jones Potatoes and past chairman of the former United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, has died at 75.
Jones focused his efforts on Carmela Winery in Glenns Ferry, Idaho, after selling his potato businesses in 2002. He died Aug. 19.
Tom Stenzel, president of what is now United Fresh Produce Association, joined the trade group in 1993 when Jones was its board chairman.
“He was my first boss here,” Stenzel said in an e-mail. “I’m not sure I had ever met a potato grower-shipper, and never anyone who was as big a promoter of Idaho.”
Jones served on the Idaho Potato Commission from 1980 to 1988, including a year as chairman. He also owned and operated transportation, recreation and publishing companies,
“While Roger hasn’t been active in the produce industry in recent years, I will always remember the great ambassador he was for Idaho potatoes and for our whole industry as United’s chairman,” Stenzel said. “His passion for produce was contagious.”
Rolland Jones Potatoes, named for Jones’ father, was a fresh-pack shipper. The company also built two dehydrated potato plants — Magic Valley Foods and Magic West — to produce flakes for snack chips. When Pringles potato chips were under development, Jones collaborated with food scientists at Procter & Gamble on the project.
Magic Valley Foods, built in 1966, was among the earliest such plants in Idaho. It made use of potato product that previously went to livestock feed.
“He made some great strides in showing that potato flakes could be used in lots of different areas,” said Douglas Jones, his son. “Depending on how you cook and cut them and how fine you made it, you could turn them into things like Pringles. He was pretty instrumental in getting the right mix to Procter & Gamble to get Pringles going.”
“Then he went to Asia and everywhere else in the world and asked if they wanted our potato flakes, too,” Jones said. “It was accelerated promotion. Now a lot of people send their products overseas, and he was the vanguard of that.”
“He’s one of those guys who knew every nook and cranny of the industry,” he said. “He made friends with so many people in tomatoes, asparagus, nuts. That was one of his strengths. A stranger was somebody he hadn’t met yet.”
Survivors include two brothers, Marlin Jones and Ron Jones; another son, Roger Jones; and two daughters, Jana Jones and Audrianna Gurr.
Two memorial events were scheduled for Aug. 26 at the Methodist Church in Rupert and the Carmela Winery in Glenns Ferry. Donations are slated for the Roger Lee and Nancy Joy Jones scholarship fund at the University of Idaho Foundation, 875 Perimeter Dr., Moscow, ID 83844.