Part of the United Fresh culture is that the organization is in many ways a family. This is what comes from the mingling of over 100 years of multigenerational family businesses. So the loss of Jan Strube Fleming, longtime President and Chief Executive Officer at the Strube Celery& Vegetable Company in Chicago, leaves an absence more profound than might be true in some other organization. After all, many knew Jan —she was the 10th woman to be recognized at the Women in Produce reception held each year at United, and she served on United’s board of directors for several years. Her husband, Tim Fleming, was Chairman of United, and her father and grandfather were active in the association.
Indeed, at the funeral, the quiet whisper among family members was that Jan had timed her passing to make sure it wouldn’t interfere with the plans of many Strube associates to attend United’s convention in San Diego. Among those planning to attend are Jan’s eldest son, Tim Fleming Jr., and Lisa Strube.
We told Jan’s story — her valiant battle with a rare appendicular cancer— in pieces such as these:
The emotions are strong, and there was an outpouring of industry love and affection for Jan. Many sent notes directly to the family and a few asked us to pass some sentiments along:
Your writing on Jan Fleming was beautiful to read and the thoughts were reassuring and a source of great comfort.
Every loss we experience is renewed when we read about an intense loss for others. Yesterday, I was allowed to shave for the first time after the 30 days of mourning since my Mom’s passing.
Your thoughts are spot on. This life is our test life where we get a chance through our free will to be great and do great things for others.
The next life, our Olam Haba, is a wonderful place filled with love and truth and peace. Over the years, I have conceptualized a great hall where we are all but puffs of smoke, sharing the stories of all the good we did here in this life. The stories are inspiring and those that do good and are good are constantly sharing.
Perhaps those that did not do good, and were selfish, are in the same hall. Their hell is having to listen to the good ones speaking all day long about the good they did. Those folks do not have the ability to speak. They simply listen and contemplate what they could have been.
May you and all the mourners continue to be comforted by continuing your quest to greatness and helping others.
— Harris Cutler
Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania
My condolences, Jim. I am so very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing about Jan; she sounds like an amazing person. And thank you for opening your heart in a so-called ‘business’ forum. In the end, it is relationships to friends, family and the wider world that define us. In the end, there is only love.
— Lauri Raymond
Chief Visionary Officer
Sisters & Brothers, Inc.
Makers of SASS ~ Season All Stuff Sauce
Your tribute to Jan is a beautiful eulogy to a remarkable person. I too have lost both my folks to cancer and they were like Jan and your father… people that made life better for everyone they touched every day.
While I never knew either Jan or your father personally, I now know who and what they stood for. They lived life as it should be lived and enriched the world by their presence and reminded us all of our own mortality with their passing. I hope both families can find peace and comfort knowing that they are now free of the disease that took them from us.
My prayers and thoughts are with both your families.
Former Sr. Vice President Quality and Logistics
Jack in the Box
San Diego, California
Currently CEO of
Grey Dog Partners, Inc.
Del Mar, California
I just finished the May 2nd article and, though I never had the privilege of knowing Jan (or your father Mike), I’m truly touched by the depth of feeling you’ve captured. Not only in your love for Jan and Tim, but everyone’s love for our Lord and His plans for all of us.
Thank you for writing what many of us understand – we are not alone as we walk through this life, and our journey with those who touch us is always worth embracing.
Thank you very much for this loving tribute to Jan. Such an amazing woman, whose legacy will certainly carry us forward as she would expect.
—Dan’l Mackey Almy
Your tribute to Jan is very moving. Thank you. She was a fine lady.
John Vena, Inc.
Since retiring in 2000, many items in the world of the produce industry slip by. The Strube family was the guiding light in my career and whatever success I achieved as a person and businessman. It is with deep sadness that I read this article about Jan — her life and Tim and those left behind. God bless her and her family… and she is in a better place.
—Frank and Allie Wiechec
Punta Gorda, Florida
To Tim Fleming, you have our sympathy. Jan was an angel on earth. Now she is an angel in heaven. God bless her soul. Tim, keep your chin up.
—Joe & Teresa Procacci
My condolences to the entire Fleming/Strube families.
My impression of Jan was that she stood out in the crowd by being “just who she was”.
A very friendly, caring and down-to-earth person.
Phillips Mushroom Farms
Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
To the Fleming Family and Friends, I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing such a fine person as Jan but wish I had. I was greatly moved by all of the nice things that have been written about her today, what a wonderful person!
I pray God will give you His peace that passes all understanding during this time of mourning.
Sales / Procurement
Dominguez Hills, California
Very good article on your friend Jan! I am sorry about your loss.
I did not know her well; however, she really helped me adapt to the industry when I first started. She always showed interest in what I had to say. Amongst a group of Produce men, she really stood out.
President & General Manager
Gambles Ontario Produce
Toronto, ON, Canada
My sincere sympathy to Tim and Jan’s family. Please know my thoughts and prayers are with you.
Jan was the epitome of what a “Lady” in the Produce (or business) looked liked.
She was a role model to many of us. Her love of this industry, her family and friends were always displayed with grace and kindness.
Her stellar knowledge and understanding of our business was amazing… you knew when she spoke, Jan had something to say!
Jan will be irreplaceable, and deeply missed!
Director Variety Development & Innovation
Village Farms International
On behalf of the Blue Book, we want to express our sincerest condolences on the passing of Jan. She was a trusted friend, business colleague and an all around wonderful person. We will miss you, Jan. You were the epitome of what a XXXX AA firm and person should be.
Blue Book Services, Inc.
Carol Stream, Illinois
We just lost one of the classiest, caring, giving and professional women in our industry.
Mary and I were fortunate to serve on the United Board with Jan and Tim, and those are happy memories that can never be erased
May the perpetual light of peace shine upon her, and eternal paradise await her.
May God give strength to Tim and the family at this most difficult time.
—Mary and Al Vangelos
Co-founder & Principal
Novelle Consulting, LLC
Laguna Beach, California
I’m sorry to hear that Jan has passed. There is never enough time to make sure that you are able to do all the things in life that you would like. Even though, Jan tried.
She was always a mentor to me, and I will always appreciate that about her. She will be missed, and the produce business has definitely lost an icon. Tim, I know this is very difficult for you personally and your family, as well as the family that you and Jan have created at the Strube Company. My best wishes and prays are with you all.
Just read the moving commentary on the loss of Jan Fleming. My condolences and deepest sympathy to you and her family, and may her spirit and soul rest in peace.
Corey Brothers, Inc.
Charleston, West Virginia
To the greater Strube family~
This prayer has brought me comfort during times of sorrow. I hope it may do the same for you.
“May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.”
â€• Teresa of Ávila
Mann Packing Company
I was so sad to have received a text on the passing of Jan last night. Words cannot express how empty I feel today.
We have lost one of the most beautiful, honest, and hard-working women in the produce business. Jan was, and always will be, one of my most favorite customers I have dealt with in my over 30+ years of Produce. I will dearly miss her cheerful voice and demeanor. She was honestly one of a kind.
My sincere condolences to the Strube/Fleming family and all the co-workers there at Strube Celery. May God give you strength and guidance during this painful time.
Domestic Grape Sales Manager
Visalia Produce Sales
I didn’t know Jan, but it is apparent what a beautiful person she is and such an inspirational story of love and friendship. What a gift.
Bay Baby Produce / AMF Farms
Mount Vernon, Washington
Tim and Family,
With an extremely heavy heart I write this note. I can’t begin to know how you must feel, but I trust that your faith will keep you strong and will help you get through this.
I held a very special place in my heart for Jan. Twenty-five years ago when I was a young salesperson very early in my career, Jan stepped forward and helped me when I needed it. I have looked up to her with the greatest respect ever since and I always will.
May God bless you all.
Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Inc.
My heart was crushed this morning when I heard about the passing of Jan from earth to heaven. Joyous, yet sad.
I am so sorry I never made it back to Chicago. Jan and I talked a few times, but we were never able to confirm a date to see one another. But God knows best. Whatever I can do, please do not hesitate to call. I love you and the boys.
What a great lady, an incredible example of positive force in the produce industry and just a pleasant person to do business with. My deepest condolences to her family.
Crown Jewels Produce
South American Managing Partner
Jan was a great person and always had a smile.
I met her over 30 years ago and considered her a friend whenever I was in Chicago.
She will be missed. My best to the family.
Dave Daguerre Farms
Tim and family,
It is with great sadness that I write this note to you. I know you are receiving many messages about your loss of beloved wife and mother. Our families have so many similarities, and I know how close all of you are to each other.
I also know from discussions with you and Jan during my time affiliated with you both just how strong your faith is, that is what will help you get through this very sad time. Go to the Lord and he will give you the peace and understanding that you need.
In the Apostle Paul’s writings, he said that we aren’t to grieve like the rest of men who have no hope. We haven’t “lost” our loved ones. We know exactly where they are… they are experiencing the joy of Christ’s presence in a place so wonderful that Christ called it paradise! What hope we have in our Lord and the magnificent reunion ahead!!
Tim, Jan was a wonderful lady. My prayers are that you and your family will remember all the wonderful times you all had together and cherish those fond memories.
May God Bless you and your family,
Rick and Susan Hanas
—Richard L. Hanas
Senior Vice President/CAO
A. Duda & Sons, Inc.
I’m so very sorry to hear of Jan’s passing. Please pass along my condolences to her husband and family. I will continue to pray for her, for her family and all those who mourn her during this difficult time.
Many blessings to the Perishable Pundit as well for keeping us informed about Jan and her battle. My prayer for you and your family is peace while going through this difficult time reliving your father’s passing with the passing of your friend.
Blue Book Services, Inc.
Carol Stream, Illinois
Dear Fleming and Strube Family,
You have lost a wonderful woman, wife and mother… and we have lost a great role model.
My prayers are with you.
Mags International, Inc.
6-month breast cancer survivor
Thank you Jim — What a wonderful piece in honoring Jan. She was an incredible women and an inspiration to me along with the many others.
Sending prayers to all her family and friends. May God comfort us all and let the beautiful memories of her shine!
—Jen Verdelli Hurter
Chiquita Brands/Fresh Express
Charlotte, North Carolina
Tim, you probably don’t remember me, so let me freshen your memory. I worked with Carl at the Jack Keller Co. for just one year. I always respected you because as green as I was, you never tried to take advantage of that. You did whatever you could to make me look good in front of Carl and Sid Tobias.
My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during these tough days ahead. You and your family are in our prayers.
President / Owner
Miracle Transportation Inc.
Indeed, we were honored at the celebration of Jan’s life when Tim Fleming, Sr., paid us the great honor of calling this Pundit out by name from the pulpit, to thank us for facilitating the industry response to Jan’s passing. Sentiments he passed on in writing with this generous note:
Thank you for your continued support of Jan and me during the past few years. We are blessed to get to know you and your parents from a non-industry perspective.
I know every time trials like Jan’s come along, it brings back memories of joy and sorrow from your own past experiences. May God bless and keep you during this time of reflection.
Giving the Fresh Produce Industry a format through the Pundit to share their remembrances of Jan with each other was very generous. Jan, in her own way, carried forth a Strube tradition of promoting and mentoring the industry and its people, and because of you the industry was able to say thank you.
—Tim Fleming Sr.
For those close to anyone who passes, such as the many who were to Jan Strube Fleming, the loss is acute. As so many of the letters published above attest, even those in the industry who did not know Jan personally have been affected by the outpouring of love and respect and the many explanations of what made her such an exemplary person.
One hopes that in death there is meaning for those of us who still live. One thing that we have noticed is that many have commented that they didn’t get to see Jan in a long time prior to her passing. This was so even though, in this case, Jan had a terminal illness for a long time. Can you imagine how much more striking it is when people die suddenly, of heart attacks and accidents and what not?
How many regrets there must be among friends and family that they never said many things they would have liked to have said.
One wonders, as the industry meets in San Diego for the United convention, whether the trade wouldn’t run a little smoother and be a little more pleasant if everyone treated each interaction as if this was the last time they were ever going to see one another.
It surely would keep the focus on the important things and prevent petty disputes from destroying important relationships. It may be too much to ask of people, but surely we could try, and the aspiration itself could add meaning to Jan’s life, a final salute to a life well-lived.