Leland McCarthy, an agricultural icon, passed away peacefully in his sleep early Monday morning, December 7, 2009. Born in Hanford, California in 1928, he was the third of four sons to Gertrude Quinlan and Francis McCarthy. Over his lifetime he developed hundreds of thousands of acres of agriculture, including 70,000 acres of permanent crops throughout the United States and large scale cattle and sheep ranching in Australia. His contributions, through various joint ventures and partnerships, included the world's largest contiguous planting of varietal wine grapes, thousands of acres of sugar cane farming, and the operation of two sugar mills in Southern Louisiana. He was considered instrumental in the introduction of pistachio farming in California. With his partner and lifelong friend, Vernal Amaro, Leland was credited with coinventing the first mechanical wine grape harvester along with similar systems for olives and pistachios. He became an early supporter of the Viticulture & Enology Research Center at CSUF, where his financial contributions helped sustain the program in its initial stages. Never without his cowboy hat, boots and cigar, Leland will forever be remembered for his quiet but commanding presence, insightful observations, unprecedented vision, pioneering spirit, perseverance, sharp wit, and overwhelming generosity. He will be deeply missed by those that survive him, including wife Judy Theriot, former wife and mother of his children Bettye Lou Thompson, son Sean McCarthy and daughter Meg McCarthy Somers, step-children Russ and Alix Rabbass, six grandchildren, three step-grandchildren and his brothers, Richard and Don McCarthy. Private funeral services were held in December in the McCarthy Chapel of St. Aloysius in Tulare. His Celebration of Life Memorial will be held at the Clarence Ritchie Barn, 16338 Avenue 308 in Visalia, California on Saturday, January 30th at 3:00 p.m.
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Published in Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Adv-Register on Jan. 9, 2010