University Trustee Paul J. DiMare passes away

DiMare, who served on the University of Miami Board of Trustees for 18 years, became the largest grower of fresh-market tomatoes in the nation, earning the affectionate nickname “Mr. Tomato.” He was one of the University of Miami’s most ardent supporters.

The seeds of Paul J. DiMare’s brilliant career as a successful farmer and businessman were sown nearly 95 years ago on the streets of Boston. Back then, his father and two uncles sold fresh vegetables from a pushcart in Haymarket Square, growing their small venture into a lucrative repacking plant for tomatoes, vegetables, and nuts.

That repacking plant was located across from the Boston Terminal Market, and every day after school, when DiMare was 10, he would catch a trolley to the facility.

The family would eventually invest in farming, and when DiMare moved to Florida in 1964 at the age of 23, he would expand operations to production and distribution locations in Florida and throughout the United States, all the while supporting several causes.

DiMare, chief executive officer and president of DiMare Fresh and a longtime University of Miami trustee and benefactor who not only became the largest grower of fresh-market tomatoes in the US but also developed into one of the nation’s most influential farmers, passed away on Friday , Dec. 30.

He was 81.

“One of our University’s most ardent supporters, Paul lived a life worth emulating, marked by generosity, leadership, and a gregarious spirit that made him unforgettable,” said University of Miami President Julio Frenk. “He poured his heart into his family, his community, and his every endeavour. We have been fortunate to know him personally and we mourn the loss of this great man.”

DiMare served on the University’s Board of Trustees since 2004, holding various leadership positions and dedicating himself to uplifting the institution.

“During his 18 years on the Board of Trustees, Paul DiMare modeled for us what it means to be generous, selflessly sharing his time, talent, treasure, and most importantly his servant’s heart and passion for the U,” said Laurie Silvers, chair. of Board of Trustees.

DiMare was one of the University’s most generous philanthropists, supporting key initiatives at the University. From athletics and the arts to business, scientific research, and medical education, his generosity has made an impact across the institution.

In 2014, he and his wife, Swanee, made a transformational gift for medical student scholarships at the Miller School of Medicine.

He recently funded an endowed chair at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. The Paul J. DiMare Endowed Chair in Immunotherapy, which is held by Dr. C. Ola Landgren, promises to usher in a new era in breakthrough cancer research.

The DiMare Champions Plaza at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field, where DiMare’s son, Gino, serves as head coach of the Hurricanes baseball team, is named in DiMare’s honor.

“A pillar of our South Florida community and one of the University of Miami’s most passionate supporters” is how Dan Radakovich, vice president and director of athletics, remembers DiMare. “I knew Paul for many years, and he was always kind, encouraging, generous, and thoughtful. He was a true friend to both the University and the athletic department, and he will be deeply missed. Our hearts go out to Gino and the entire DiMare family during this difficult time.”

Paul DiMare, left, and his son, Gino, head coach of the Hurricanes baseball team.

DiMare and his wife helped make possible the Frost School of Music’s 200-seat recital hall, the lobby of which was named the Swanee and Paul J. DiMare Lobby. He was inducted into the University’s Iron Arrow Honor Society in 2017.

In addition to his volunteer service to the University, DiMare served as director of the Red Cross of Greater Miami and The Keys; a member of the Emeritus Board of Trustees, Chapman Partnership, Inc.; member of the Board of Trustees for The Buoniconti Fund, the Frost Museum of Science, Camillus House, and Channel 2 WPBT Miami/Ft. Lauderdale. He was chairman of Florida Farmers, Inc., trustee of The Paul J. DiMare Foundation and the Jackson Memorial Foundation; and he was also the former chairman of the Florida Tomato Committee, the Florida Tomato Exchange, and the Miami-Dade County Farm Bureau.

DiMare was honored with the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, the Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year Award in 2007, the 2007 Women’s Guild of the Miami Project Ann Bishop Spirit of Excellence Award, and the 2013 Southeast Produce Council Lifetime Achievement Award.

Paul J. DiMare was born April 14, 1941, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He attended Georgetown University and later went to work for his family’s business, The DiMare Companies.

In the 1960s, he moved to Florida to oversee the tomato growing and packing operations started by his father and uncles. Today, DiMare Fresh is one of the nation’s largest providers of value-added distribution services in the form of repacking, ripening, storage, consolidation, and delivery of refrigerated foods, specializing in fresh produce and floral, including plants.

Originally built as a tomato repacker, the company ventured into tomato growing and has expanded its many services through an efficient distribution network.

In the agriculture industry, DiMare is affectionately known as “Mr. Tomato,” a nickname he was not entirely sure how he got.

An industry leader in the areas of trade, product enhancement, and public awareness, DiMare was inducted into the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2005.

He is survived by his wife, Swanee; sons Anthony, Paul DiMare, Jr., Scott, and Gino, and stepson Jim Husk.

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