Longtime produce industry veteran Robert “Bob” Bassetti passes away
An industry icon, Robert “Bob” Bassetti, passed away in his sleep on Sept. 15.
Bassetti, 83, was a well-known produce industry veteran and longtime owner of B&B Produce in Hammonton, NJ.
He was the oldest child of James “Big Jim” and Dolores “Tootsie” Bassetti.
Also among his many well-respected family members was Jimmy Bassetti, president of Little Bear Produce in Edinburg, TX. Jimmy Bassetti and his wife, Diane, long ago extended their New Jersey produce experience to become leaders in Texas growing and distributing.
According to a Sept. 22 release from the Texas International Produce Association, Jimmy indicates, “I have a tremendous amount of love and respect for my big brother Bobby; he lived life to the fullest. He was in constant motion, always hustling and making things happen. He loved the action of the produce markets as much as he loved the craps tables. Bobby was an original ‘produce man’, constantly making deals whether he was in New Jersey, or North Carolina, or at his island home in St. Maarten. He had so many industry friends, colleagues, and customers who loved him dearly, we will all miss Bobby.”
The release indicates that Bob Bassetti’s life was a wild ride full of action and adventure. At the age of 16 he joined the Army National Guard and served for seven years. After graduating from Sacred Heart High School in Vineland, NJ, he started a popular local barbershop and developed strong friendships and relationships across South Jersey.
His produce career began at R&B Produce, a partnership owned by his father, “Big Jim” and his Uncle John Ruggeri. When Ruggeri passed away, Bob went to work with his father. Bob eventually left R&B in the mid-70’s and started B&B Produce with his partner Richard Bacigalupo; Bob eventually became the sole owner and had locations in Hammonton, NJ and Benson, NC.
An innovative and forward thinker, Bassetti developed the first microwaveable wrappers for steaming sweet potatoes. He had a passion for produce and lived and breathed the business. Eventually Bob expanded from sweet potatoes into blueberries and worked with Driscoll’s.
Bassetti’s daughter, Melanie Heath, worked with him for 17 years. “It wasn’t always easy working for a produce legend! He moved at a high speed with a relentless passion for his work. Dad did everything from running the forklift to selling blues with Driscoll’s. He was an amazing produce man and everybody that worked with Dad loved him. I appreciated everything Dad did for our family, he was always a constant in my life and I love him so much.”
Bassetti’s sister Cheryl Densten of Little Bear Produce says “Bobby was my oldest brother and I loved him dearly, but when it came to yams and blues, he was as tough as it gets! Nothing could stop Bob from making deals, no matter where he was, you can bet he was always cutting a deal. He was very proud of his pack and he always wanted top dollar, and he usually got it. I will miss Bobby and all the wonderful family times that we shared with him.”
Bassetti not only had a passion for produce, but he also loved sports, spending time with his family at the Jersey shore and in the Caribbean islands.
He is survived by his children, Elaine Buchberger (Dale), Laurie Trongone (John), Melanie Heath (Dave) and the mother of his children Phyllis Bassetti; brother James “Jimmy” Bassetti (Diane); sisters Marlene Scott and Cheryl Densten (Bruce); his grandchildren Zachary Buchberger (Niki), Camille Doherty, Jenna Trongone (Rob), Anthony Venuto (Brittany) and two great grandchildren. Bob is predeceased by his parents James and Dolores Bassetti; second wife Janet (Stevenson) Bassetti; grandson Nicholas Venuto and brother-in-law Roger Scott. A private family service is pending.