Surrounded by his family at St. Agnes Hospital, Larry A. Shehadey passed away peacefully on Saturday, October 10 at the age of 102.
Shehadey was born on July 2, 1907, in the foothills of Northern California. He learned the virtues of sacrifice, hard work and Christian values from his mother, Sadie, and father, Salem, both Lebanese immigrants. He never missed a day of school even though it was 5 miles away on a dirt road, which he traveled by horseback or on foot.
His family later moved to San Francisco where he graduated from Polytechnic High and excelled in athletics.
Shehadey started his business career working for Par Soap Co. as a sales manager and worked his way up to vice president, traveling the 11 western states.
By 1949, Shehadey and his late wife, Elayne, left the bay area for Fresno, Calif., and bought an interest in Producers Dairy, a small dairy that competed with more than 48 other dairies in the area. Without a college degree, he utilized his creative marketing abilities to differentiate Producers Dairy from its competitors by associating with Hopalong Cassidy (William Boyd), a well-known and respected cowboy. He placed photos of Hoppy on Producers milk containers and distributed coupons to Hoppy’s movies.
As a result, P-R-O-D-U-C-E-R-S, the company’s jingle, soon became as well known in Fresno as the cowboy movie star. Within a short period of time, Producers Dairy became the No. 1 dairy in the area.
By 1955, Shehadey bought out the other partners and owned 100% of Producers Dairy. In 1959, he decided he could better control quality and further grow his business by buying cows and opening a dairy farm. He built the first Bar 20 (named for Hoppy’s ranch) milking operation, followed by a second Bar 20 in 1972 and a third in 2006. He further integrated his business by farming and growing a significant quantity of feed for his cows. He also built a successful chain of convenience stores and gasoline stations known as Shop N Go.
Aside from his success, Shehadey built a legacy of making a difference in everything that he was involved in. He donated to California State University, Fresno, St. Agnes Hospital, Community Medical Center, Children’s Hospital of Central California, Fresno Pacific University, Fresno City College, YMCA, Rotary, Boy Scouts, Boys Club, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and numerous schools and organizations throughout the area. Several of the organizations have recognized his contributions by naming various buildings and rooms in his honor.
In addition, Shehadey received numerous awards and recognition for his hard work and contributions. He received the prestigious Leon S. Peters Award (honoring business professionals for devotion to improving life in the Central Valley), was inducted into the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame (having been an original benefactor), awarded the Excellence in Business
Award by the Fresno Bee and received an Honorary Doctorate from California State University, Fresno, just to name a few.
He is survived by his two sons, John and his wife Mary, and Richard and his wife Sue; as well as his grandchildren, Kevin, Steve, Jim, Tom, Ritchie, Scott, Nancy and Brett. He also is survived by 18 great grandchildren and two nephews.
Visitation will be held at Whitehurst, Sullivan, Burns & Blair Funeral Home, on Wednesday, October 14 from 4-7 p.m.
A Funeral Service will be held at The Peoples Church, 7172 N. Cedar, on Thursday, October 15 at 10 a.m. Interment will follow at Belmont Memorial Park.
Remembrances may be made to St. Agnes Hospital Foundation, Fresno Community Hospital or Children’s Hospital of Central California. Whitehurst Sullivan, Burns & Blair Funeral Home 1525 East Saginaw Way, Fresno, Calif. 559/227-4048.
Larry Shehadey, 1907-2009
October 14, 2009