A memorial for potato and onion icon Kent Romrell will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday, March 11 at the Idaho Falls Country Club. Romrell passed away at age 70 on Feb. 22 after having undergone treatment for an inoperable brain tumor for several months.
He leaves behind his wife, Deon, as well as four children and several grandchildren.
One of the original founders of Potandon Produce, Kent retired from the company in March 2013 after a career of more than 30 years in the produce industry. Known throughout the industry for his professionalism and thoughtfulness on the job and his obsession with golf outside the office, Kent started in produce with the R.T. French Co. in 1983. That company was bought out by Pillsbury Foods in 1985, and in 1996 Kent and three other Pillsbury managers joined efforts to buy out the fresh potato and onion division.
Combining the commodities, POTatoes AND ONions, the men formed Potandon Produce. Kent headed up sales until his retirement, and his former partners, Jeff Sholl, Mel Davenport and Steve Ottum, remain active in the operation. Davenport is CEO, Sholl is managing partner and Ottum is currently president of the nation’s largest marketer of fresh potatoes.
A company announcement of Kent’s passing issued Feb. 23 said that “…his guidance and forward thinking made an impact on the fresh potato industry that will not be forgotten. Under his leadership Potandon Produce introduced many new potato varieties into the marketplace and helped change the direction of the category forever.”
Dick Thomas, Potandon’s current senior vice president of sales, said, “I’m going to sorely miss Kent and his passing leaves a huge hole in my life. He taught me the fresh potato business over the 23 years we worked together.”
Davenport added, “Kent was a terrific friend and partner. He was one of a group that established Potandon as an innovative and leading produce company. He will be truly missed,” and Sholl said, “There are some people you meet, as you go through your career, who are bigger than life. Kent was one of those people. Kent was a true character and his passing makes the world a poorer place.”
Steve Ottum said, “… he was a great partner, friend and one of the most caring people I have ever known. And oh my how he loved golf. He would teach you little things about golf, even while he was taking your money!!”
Kent was known for his caring, his business ethics and for his humor. Grant Kitamura, managing partner of Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR, said his company has enjoyed a relationship with Potandon for over 20 years, and he considered Kent “a person of vision, wisdom and integrity.” Kitamura said, “He also possessed a great sense of humor. He will be missed and fondly remembered.”
Speaking on behalf of many, Potandon Vice President of Sales Ralph Schwartz credited Kent with “contributions to the produce industry [that] are too numerous to count,” and he said that “the impact he had on my life, both professionally and personally, cannot be expressed with words. He lived his life to the fullest and he will never be forgotten.”