Good Fruit Grower

February 1

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PHOTO BY MIKE BUSH Fast track ends for Jerry Haak Jerry Haak focused on growing fruit and helping others, not his pain. by Geraldine Warner erry Haak, one of Washington State's most progressive tree fruit growers, knew he could die young. At the age of 19, he was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a severe form of arthritis that affects the joints and the eyes. Doctors told him when he was 21 that he had the joints of an 85-year-old and predicted that he would be wheelchair bound by the time he was 35. Haak continued to walk—though often with difficulty—throughout his life. Last November, he visited Arizona, where it is thought that he became infected by the fungal disease, coccidioidomycosis, a severe form of valley fever. He died December 25, a couple of days after being hospitalized. Severe pain and numerous surgeries, including knee and hip replacements, had never stopped Haak from excelling as a grower and philanthropist. "It was remarkable how much he was able to achieve, given his severe physical limitations," commented Yakima, Washington, grower Charlie de la Chapelle. He and Haak were among a small group of growers who used to meet regularly for lunch. "Jerry was in chronic pain the entire time I'd known him," de la Chapelle said. "But he never talked about it." J 6 FEBRUARY 1, 2014 GOOD FRUIT GROWER Jerry Haak addressed Chilean cherry growers at his orchard in 2011 on the merits of pedestrian cherry orchards. What Haak loved to talk about was fruit growing. The lunch group members would discuss what they'd done right and what they'd done wrong. "And Jerry was notable in that he was the most aggressive at learning, and the most aggressive at teaching and at trying new ideas and making them work. Not too many of us had the success he had," said de la Chapelle. Friend and partner Don Weippert described Haak as one of the smartest people in the state of Washington and said he had remarkable business skills. "He knew how to get things done. He had so many innovative thoughts, and some were way out there. He had more ideas before breakfast than most people had in a whole day. He was involved in a bazillion different things." Bob Price, president of Price Cold Storage in Yakima, recently went into partnership with Haak to purchase equipment for a new presort line and build more cold storage. That was one of about 17 limited-partnership companies Haak was involved in. "He didn't know how long he was in this world, so he was always on a fast track to get to the next best thing," Price said. "He kind of wanted to do everything." Haak was born in Delavan, Wisconsin, in 1962 and grew up in Outlook, Washington, where his parents, Henry and Karen Haak, had a dairy farm. He attended Sunnyside

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