IFPA mourns passing of former PMA senior staff leader Duane Eaton

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IFPA mourns passing of former PMA senior staff leader Duane Eaton

Press release (IFPA)

Washington, DC – The International Fresh Produce Association is saddened to share news of the recent passing of Duane Eaton, a long-time senior staff executive who led the Meetings and Tradeshows team at the legacy organization Produce Marketing Association.

“Duane was a foundational part of PMA, serving under CEOs Bob Carey and Bryan Silbermann. As PMA’s twelfth employee, Duane saw the organization through an incredible period of growth and transformation,” said IFPA CEO Cathy Burns. “While we still see echoes of his work in today’s IFPA programs, not all his energy was member-facing. He played an integral role in helping shape organizational culture and led efforts to continually invest time and resources to develop staff talent.”

Eaton, who retired from PMA in 2014 after 34 years of service to the fresh produce industry, filled a variety of roles throughout his career. In addition to leading the annual convention and trade show group, at varying times he also oversaw event strategy and logistics, housing and registration, marketing and public relations, education, the PMA Retail and Floral divisions, and later human resources, financial services, and information technology.

Retired PMA CEO Bryan Silbermann noted “Duane began his career developing PMA’s early education programs, some of which grew into PMA’s Foundation for Industry Talent. He also was the one who first grappled with standardized codes for produce before turning that task over to me in the 1980s. Through it all, he’s been the champion of mixing work with enjoyment and caring, with a wit that was equal parts irreverent and insightful.”

He is fondly remembered by colleagues for his leadership in growing the association’s programs and expositions, his unwavering dedication to his team, and his trademark sense of humor.

During farewell comments made to the PMA Board and past Chairs, Eaton remarked “I am proud to have been able to serve on the staff of such a great organization, representing such a wonderful industry, for such a long time. In those 34 years, I have had four bosses and three were great. Since this is World Series time, I guess a .750 batting average is pretty good.”

Regarding applying to join PMA in 1979, he commented: “During the interview, I impressed Jim Johnson with my vast experience in running association education programs and overseeing the national Associated Builders & Contractors trade show. He never asked, and I never offered that, at the time, the ABC show had a total of 20 exhibitors, including the guy with the vibrating Barcolounger chair and another with the Encyclopedia Britannica sets.

“Somehow, I was offered the job. Jim told me later I was the only applicant.”

In addition to being survived by his wife Antoinette Eaton and daughters Mandy Eaton and Katie Shaffer (husband Mike), he will be sorely missed by many IFPA staff and volunteers who had the pleasure of knowing, and working alongside, him to make the global fresh produce and floral community better.

Family and friends are invited to pay their respects at the Doherty Funeral Home, 3200 Limestone Road, Pike Creek, Delaware on Saturday, July 13 from 9:00 – 11:00 a.m.  A Remembrance Service in his honor will begin at 11:00 a.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Delaware or Ulster Project Delaware, Inc.

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