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Earl A. Cronk Jr., a senior category manager for the Golub Corp's Price Chopper division in Schenectady, NY, died of a sudden and massive heart attack Dec. 7. He was 45.

Mr. Cronk had more than 27 years of experience in the produce industry. He held positions as a produce manager and produce specialist with Great American before joining Price Chopper in 1996. He continued to grow his career during his years at Price Chopper and was recently promoted to senior produce cronkEarl A. Cronk Jr.category manager. As such, he procured fresh produce for the company, developing and maintaining productive industrywide relationships across the country.

Mr. Cronk was also instrumental in nurturing the company's partnerships with regional farmers who supply fresh locally grown product during the Northeast growing season to all of Price Chopper's 130 stores across six states. He also brought his "fresh" perspective to bear as a valued member of the corporate health and wellness team.

"Those of us who had the pleasure to know and work with Earl, can attest to the fact that he genuinely cared about people and would always take the time to help them, no matter what the situation," Don Zalatan, Price Chopper's director of produce sales and merchandising, said in a statement. "We mourn his passing and miss him dearly, but will always remember his passion for life, his family and our business."

Peter Kroner, director of business development for Eli & Ali's Organic & Specialty Produce in Brooklyn, NY, told The Produce News that he and Mr. Cronk had been friends for about seven years.

"Earl was a colleague and a friend," said Mr. Kroner. "He was truly the salt of the earth. He will be missed by all."

Mr. Cronk was born in Cornwall, NY, to Earl and Carol (Sanford) Cronk of New Windsor, NY. A graduate of SUNY-Binghamton, he enjoyed spending time with his family and friends, and volunteered his time as a softball, baseball and basketball coach in Rotterdam, NY. He also loved to watch sports on television, and he enjoyed playing golf. He was an avid NASCAR fan and closely followed his favorite sports teams, the New York Jets, the New York Knicks and the New York Mets.

In addition to his parents, he is survived by his loving wife Jodi Paris Cronk, whom he married in 1994; two children, Tyler Cronk and Kennedy Cronk, both of Rotterdam; one brother, Paul Cronk of Cornwall; two sisters, Shannon Fulgum (Bruce) of Montrose, NY, and Tracey Cerone (Michael) of Cornwall; and by several nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by a son, Spencer Cronk.

Visitation was scheduled for Dec. 11 at Bond Funeral Home in Schenectady with funeral services on Dec. 12 at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church. Internment will be in Holy Cross Cemetery in Rotterdam.

A memorial scholarship fund has been set up in honor of Mr. Cronk, a devoted father who always supported his children's love for art and sports. The funds will be designated to students who share the same passions. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to Schalmont School District, 4 Sabre Drive, Schenectady, NY, 12306 to the Earl Cronk Memorial Scholarship Fund.