Graceland Fruit founder dies

By Mark Urban
The Record-Eagle

FRANKFORT — Donald Nugent, instrumental in the founding of Graceland Fruit, Inc., died Monday in Grand Rapids, according to company representatives. He was 76.

Jim Nugent, chairman of the board at Graceland, said his brother was the driving force behind the dried fruit market. Jim Nugent said the first cranberry for Ocean Spray was dried at the Frankfort processing plant.

“He was a visionary,” Jim Nugent said. “He was very instrumental in developing the dried cherry market and also developed dried blueberries and dried cranberries.

“He was very innovative. He was very passionate about helping the company and the industry as well.”

Phil Korson, president of the Cherry Marketing Institute in DeWitt, said he “can’t say enough good” about Don Nugent’s contributions.

“I think Don Nugent is one of the pioneers of the cherry industry,” Korson said. “He was an innovator, a developer and a marketer. He is the pioneer behind the dried cherry market that is an important part of the cherry industry today.”

Chuck Lombardo, director of marketing and communications at the fruit processing company, said Don Nugent was “instrumental in the founding of Graceland Fruit” in 1973.

“We’re really saddened by his loss,” Lombardo said, adding that Don Nugent’s “vision was remarkable” for the fruit processing industry.

“He was a true champion for the cherry industry, supporting farmers and agriculture overall,” Lombardo said.

Don Nugent served as president and chief executive officer for Graceland Fruit until a “restructuring” of the company, Lombardo said. Don Nugent remained on the board of directors at Graceland “until about a year ago,” Lombardo added.

Jim Nugent said his brother was also proud that he served on the Michigan Farm Bureau Board of Directors and on the Michigan State University board of trustees. A 2010 Record-Eagle story said he was elected to the MSU board in 1994 and served until the end of 2010. He was a 1965 graduate of the university.

According to Farm World, Don Nugent was the 2010 recipient of the Michigan Farm Bureau Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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