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New Jersey blueberry leader Tim Wetherbee dies at 68

Tim Wetherbee, sales manager at Diamond Blueberry Inc. and a longstanding member of the New Jersey blueberry industry for more than half a century, died early Wednesday morning, Nov. 8, at Virtua Hospital in Vorhees Township, NJ, following a bout of pneumonia. He was 68 years old and a lifelong resident of Hammonton, NJ.

"Tim was a major proponent of the New Jersey blueberry industry. It was his passion, it was his life," said longtime friend Denny Doyle, who is vice chairman of the New Jersey Blueberry Industry Advisory Council and who served as general manager of Atlantic Blueberry Co. in Hammonton from 1999 to 2016.Diamond3570Tim Wetherbee

"Tim was well known and well respected in New Jersey and U.S. blueberry circles," added Doyle, who knew Mr. Wetherbee since 1979. "Tim was always focused on what would be best for the blueberry industry. He is going to be sorely missed, not only by the New Jersey blueberry industry but by the whole blueberry industry as well. And I will personally miss being around him. This is a sad day for the blueberry industry."

Timothy James Wetherbee (he began using James as a middle name after his confirmation) was born March 16, 1949, in Philadelphia. He grew up, was raised, and lived his entire life in Hammonton, the community known throughout the produce industry as the blueberry capital of the world.

Mr. Wetherbee graduated from St. Joseph's High School in Hammonton in 1967, and after he took a few courses at the college level, he went to work at the family-owned Diamond Blueberry Inc. with his father, Alex, also a veteran and well-respected member of the New Jersey blueberry industry. Timmy, as he was known to his friends, would remain with Diamond his entire life.

In addition to his responsibilities at Diamond, Tim Wetherbee was chairman of the New Jersey Blueberry Industry Advisory Council and a board member of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.

"Tim was a wonderful, wonderful guy," said Thomas Beaver, director of marketing at the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. "He was an institution in the blueberry industry in New Jersey. He was very selfless in his commitment to the blueberry industry. And even more than that, he was a wonderful human being."

Al Murray, who currently serves as executive director of the New Jersey Agricultural Society, knew and worked with both Alex and Tim Wetherbee during his long tenure with the NJDA. From 1990 until he retired from the department at the end of 2016, Murray was the liaison between the NJDA and the blueberry council. As such, he worked "very closely" with Mr. Wetherbee, especially during the state's blueberry season.

"The New Jersey Blueberry Industry Advisory Council has had only two chairmen since its formation in 1989: Alex Wetherbee and his son, Tim," said Murray. "I think that underscores the impact the Wetherbee family has had on the New Jersey blueberry industry."

He continued, "Tim was the voice for the New Jersey blueberry industry. His leadership and his knowledge of the industry will be sorely missed. He was also a great friend personally, and his impact on the industry will be remembered for many years. This is a huge loss for the blueberry industry, both in New Jersey and nationally."

Mr. Wetherbee is survived by his wife of 34 years, Francisca; his daughter, Veronica (Ronnie) Wetherbee; his twin brother, Greg Wetherbee, and his wife, Sandy; and his sister, Cindy Wetherbee. All live in Hammonton.

A funeral service for Tim Wetherbee will be held Saturday, Nov. 11, in Hammonton.