(McAllen, TX). The produce industry is saddened by the loss of longtime friend and colleague, Dene Iliff, who passed on Tuesday March 1, 2022. “Few people make a lasting impact in your life the way that Dene did,” said Chris Ciruli, a close friend of almost twenty five years. “He was one of my mentors and one of the best managers I’ve known. He had a knack for identifying good talent and developing them in their careers. I’ll always remember him as a gentleman with a kind voice and an impeccable work ethic,” added Ciruli.
Iliff was a longtime produce veteran based in South Texas. He began his produce career in corrugated with Valley International Paper, later acquired by Weyerhaeuser. From there, he held progressive roles in management and operations with Edward Distributing in the 70s and 80s and with McAllen Fruit and Veg where he worked alongside Ben Britton in the early 90s. Iliff then joined Coast Tropical in the mid-90s where he oversaw the company’s Texas operation and was instrumental in opening the company’s Nogales division. He left Coast to oversee Ciruli Brothers’ Texas operations at Amex Distributing Company in Donna in the late 90s. Simultaneously, Dene operated his own brokerage business, New Mecca Produce, which he founded in 2006.
“When our family bought the first building in south Texas, Dene was a natural fit to run that deal for us,” added Ciruli. “Yes, Dene played a crucial role in helping us grow our Texas mango operations,” adds Chuck Ciruli III, CEO of Ciruli Brothers. “He was a wonderful friend who we could always count on. Dene had a lot of integrity and he was like family to us.”
As a young man, Dene served in the U.S. Army between 1963-1969. He was an avid Dallas Cowboys fan who favored big pick-up trucks. He was known to listen to old country music and could be heard humming to Merle Haggard tunes as he worked. Dene is survived by his loving wife Judy, his son Sean, daughter in law Liza, his loving grandson, as well as extended family, friends, and former industry peers.
A memorial for Mr. Iliff will be held at the Kreidler Funeral Home in McAllen, TX on Monday, March 7th at 10:00am. A burial service will follow at the Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery at 11:00 am, and a celebration of life will be held at the Hotel Casa de Palmas in McAllen, TX immediately following.