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Cherry industry mourning loss of Kewadin producer

The Antrim Review of Bellaire, Michigan

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KEWADIN — Michigan's cherry industry is mourning the loss of Kewadin resident Gene Veliquette, calling him a "visionary leader" for the fruit industry. The influential and widely admired grower, who was 67 years old, died June 7 in Traverse City's Munson Medical Care.

After buying his first farm in 1970 with his brothers, Veliquette began raising cherries and quickly became an industry leader.

"Gene was a fabulous guy—a fabulous friend," said Phil Korson, executive director of the Michigan Cherry Industry Institute. "He had a vision for both the production side and the marketing side. He had a vision for the future of the industry, and he was all about working together to accomplish things together.

"He always challenged other people to do their best, and he lived that model."

Known as a man with a passion for cherries, Veliquette and his wife, Linda Carol Godfrey, lived in Williamsburg for 37 years, raising children Rachel (Chance) Bunner of Traverse City, Charlotte (Kevin) Ball of Elk Rapids and Tyler Veliquette of Williamsburg.

Veliquette served on many cherry industry boards over the years and was a founding member of Christ the King Church.

Veliquette's penchant for innovation transformed Michigan's cherry industry, providing the vision and inspiration for growth at Cherry

Ke, Cherries 'R Us, Great Lakes Packing, Shoreline Fruit, and Triple D Orchards, Korson said, who led by example and was "generous to a fault".

Alongside his twin brother Dean, Veliquette helped create the Cherryland Youth Association to support and help fund area youth sporting activities, including Elk Rapids' soccer program.

"Gene taught us all to be smarter, and he challenged us to go the extra mile," Korson said. "Not many people have his willingness to share or his passion for cherries. Short of his family, that was his closest passion. He will truly be missed."

Besides his wife and children, Veliquette is survived by nine grandchildren and 10 siblings. Services were held last Thursday in Acme. Memorial contributions may be directed to the Cherryland Youth Association, P.O. Box 32, Elk Rapids, MI 49629.

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Original Publication Date: June 18, 2015

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