Writing the Pundit is typically a joyous enterprise. We fight the good fight for clear ideas and good thinking; we battle to better understand the world in which we live.
Yet there are moments we wish we didn’t have to write at all…
So it is today, when I have to tell you that my friend and a friend to all who loved truth, beauty and the produce industry, Jan Fleming of the Strube Celery & Vegetable Co. has passed.
We told the story of Jan’s battle with cancer in several pieces:
There will be obituaries and funeral arrangements aplenty; she was the CEO of the iconic Chicago wholesaler, the Strube Celery & Vegetable Co., the daughter of an industry icon, Bob Strube, Sr., who was a founding columnist of Pundit sister publication, PRODUCE BUSINESS; we chronicled his passing here. Jan’s husband, Tim Fleming — as upstanding a man as the good Lord allows — was the Chairman of United.
Jan was young, just 67, and she leaves behind a young husband, children, grandchildren, a brother, nephews and nieces and a host of people — employees, vendors and customers I had the privilege to get close to — who truly loved Jan. How many of us will go being able to make such a claim?
She didn’t run things in a typical Harvard MBA manner. She was more the mother hen who protected and counseled all around her. She cared about everyone and, lo and behold, they came to care about her.
My family knew Jan’s family for generations. When, shortly after Jan was diagnosed, my father, Michael Prevor, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a story we told in a piece titled Never tell Me The Odds: One Man, One Disease, One Battle, the serendipitous forces of fate tied our families together in a manner unexpected. For months, on the same day, at the same time, my father and Jan sat in different cities receiving the exact same chemotherapy. As they did so, my mother, Roslyn Prevor, would exchange e-mails back and forth with Jan and in a short but intense time, they built a special bond.
When we threw my father a surprise 75th birthday, despite her illness, Jan and Tim flew down to Florida to be part of what was a salute and, in a sense, a bon voyage for my father. One doesn’t forget when a woman with cancer makes time in her life to do such a thing. We told that story in Pundit Poppa’s Medical Report: Drawing Strength From Infusions Of Love.
My father passed first, and as it seemed likely he was about to pass, I called Jan’s family to give them a head’s up. I wanted Jan to know that though my father and Jan had journeyed together, it didn’t have to end in the same place for her, that perhaps their journeys would diverge, that, by the Grace of God, perhaps Jan would make it. I didn’t want my father’s passing to bring her grand spirit down.
Of course, all our journeys end in the same place.
I had tried to see Jan just this past Thursday, but she was too tired, too sick and so we let her be.
As it became clear that Jan’s time on this earth was growing short, I sent Tim a note:
Oh Tim –
We pray for you and Jan so very much.
I shared this with my mother, and we feel the loss of my father once again.
How much we would give if we could, just for a day, not be powerless mortals and instead be able to intervene.
We love you and Jan and pray that her journey is an easy one and that the Lord grant you the strength to endure.
And Tim, who stood by Jan every moment of this battle, loving and stoic at the same time, sent back his own note:
You are right.. it sucks to be just a corner man in this fight. We must realize too that we need to be there to dress the wounds, to encourage the fighter, give them water, to wipe their brow, and yes throw in the towel when the time comes because the fighter never knows when they are losing.
And my Mom, who knows this pain of loss acutely, sent her own note:
I am so sorry to hear that Jan is losing her battle. She certainly fought long and hard.
I know how difficult this is for you, your family and all of those, including Mike, Jim and me, who loved Jan. How could anyone not love Jan?
If you can, please let her know that Mike is preparing to welcome her to a world without pain, but one filled with love, and they will both be looking down and blessing all of their loved ones.
I will always be available if you feel like writing or talking in the months and years ahead. I know how difficult they can be.
How fortunate we have been, to have Jan and Mike in our lives, and to have the wonderful family and memories that they have left us. We have truly been blessed by God!
Wishing you peace.
I tried to help Jan with some projects after she got sick, I hope I helped a little. Now I’m telling my Dad he owes Jan a party of her own, I know he will make it a great one.
The memory of the righteous is always a blessing, and we pray that Tim and the broader family shall find solace in that memory.
We will pass on funeral information and donation opportunities as they become available. If you would like to send condolences to the family, you can do so here.