Former Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association Chairman and longtime member Frank Johns, Jr. passed away early April 22 after a long illness. Johns was a fourth-generation farmer and known for his talent, hard work and modest demeanor.

Frank was diagnosed seven years ago with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. ALS also is known as "Lou Gehrig's disease."

After receiving his bachelor's degree from the College of Agriculture at the University of Florida, he returned to work on his family's farm. Soon, though, he struck out on his own, joining Tri-County Produce growing potatoes and cabbage. Two years later, he entered into a share-cropping agreement with Tri-County and founded Tater Farms in Hastings in 1976.

“Frank fought a highly courageous battle with a devastating disease with grace and dignity. He leaves behind a legacy of leadership for FFVA, the industry and the next generation for which we’re extremely grateful,” said FFVA President Mike Stuart. “We’ll miss him deeply. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Polly, the family and everyone at Tater Farms.”

Frank understood the importance of leadership and giving back to the industry. In addition to serving as FFVA chairman from 2002 to 2004, he was a member of the board of directors for nearly 20 years and the executive committee for 11.

He served on the Hastings Drainage District for 14 years including a stint as chairman. He represented Florida on the National Potato Promotion Board for six years, including two on its executive committee. He also served as director of the St. Johns County Fairgrounds Association, was a member of the Snack Food Association and the Leafy Greens Council, and served on FFVA Mutual Insurance Company's board of directors since 2005. Frank also was a member of the first class of what is now known as the Wedgworth Leadership Institute.

Read more about Johns and his legacy.