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Respected grape grower dies suddenly

Niagara has lost a ‘giant’ of a man.

When Debbie Zimmerman suggested a change from the traditional purple Grape King jacket to a more sedate blue, Howard Staff gently protested.

“He loved that purple jacket,” said Zimmerman, CEO Ontario Grape Growers.

That memory is just one of many she will carry with her of her friend and mentor Howard Staff.

Staff, a well-know and respected grape grower, died suddenly last Friday at the age of 71.

Howard Staff
Howard Staff’s family: Back left, daughter Sue Ann, daughter-in-law Dana, son Drew, wife Wendy with Howard. Howard died suddenly last Friday at the age of 71.

Staff was the sixth generation to farm his family homestead, and was an industry leader in Lincoln. Staff was one of the longest serving members of the Grape Growers of Ontario, as a member of the Growers’ Committee for 38 years, and a Board Director for 10 years.

In 1996, Staff was nominated as Grape King by his peers and earned his purple jacket.

“We are shocked and devastated,” said Zimmerman. “In addition to being a great family man, he was also a great community man.”

“He always had a story to tell, and people listened to him.”

“He had a hearty laugh and there was power in his voice. He was a giant of a man but a gentle man as well.”

In business, said Zimmerman, Staff under-stood there was a process to be followed and he also treated
others with respect.

The Niagara North Federation of Agriculture awarded Staff a lifetime achievement award for exemplary contribution to the agriculture community. He was a major contributor to Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute, and was president of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, and Vineland Growers Co-Operative.

He has also been chair of the Lincoln Committee of Adjustment and Jordan Historical Museum as well as a commissioner of the Niagara Escarpment Commission.

“Howard certainly was a leader in the grape and wine industry for many years, right back from the early days in the 1960s, he was one of the first growers who brought grape harvesters into the area,” said Bill George, chair of the Ontario Grape Growers. “Since then he still continued to farm, be a leader, and develop his business. We will miss him.”

He is survived by wife Wendy Staff, daughter Sue-Ann Staff, son Drew, daughter-in-law Dana, grandchildren Connor and Caitlin and other family.

Staff’s funeral was held at St.John’s Anglican Church in Jordan on July 2 with a celebration of Howard’s life hosted by his daughter at her winery: Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery/H.A. Staff.

The family is requesting that remembrances should be directed to the Niagara Community Foundation “Howard V. Staff Memorial Fund”.

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