1935 - 2019
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Ben Abatti, 84, of Holtville, California, passed away peacefully at home on Friday, November 8, 2019, with his wife, Loretta and family, by his side. Ben was born on January 4, 1935, to Italian immigrants, Antonia Scalvini and Battista Abatti. Ben was devoted to his Catholic faith, his family and his community. He spent most of his childhood working on the family's small dairy in Heber. He attended Heber Elementary School and graduated from Central Union High School in 1953 where he was involved with FFA and was a member of the wrestling team. After graduating from high school, Ben joined the Army National Guard where he served as a Sergeant and as Tank Commander. He continued to serve until he was honorably discharged in 1961. Ben loved agriculture and he began working on farms for Jack Vessey, John Jackson and Matt LaBrucherie when he was a teenager. In addition to learning more about farming from these men, Ben had the opportunity to be mentored by Earl Nielson. In 1956, he formed Ben and Tony Abatti Farms with his brother. Through hard work and perseverance, they developed a diversification of commodities including cantaloupe, mixed melons, onions, honeydew, and asparagus. Ben enjoyed every part of the growing process and often remarked that the melons "looked like diamonds." In 1967, Ben and Tony formed Abatti Produce, Inc., at one point farming over 24,000 acres and employing 7,000 people. He was an advocate and key spokesperson for the Imperial Valley agriculture industry and represented farmers and ranchers at the state level in meetings with Governor Brown and Governor Wilson. Ben was a founding member of the Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association, served as Treasurer of the Imperial Valley Sugar Beet Growers Association and served on the Board of Western Growers Association. He believed in doing what was right and felt it was important to stand by your principles. In 2016, he was selected as Farmer of the Year by the Imperial County Farm Bureau and presented with the National Philanthropy Lifetime Achievement Award by the Imperial Valley Community Foundation. Although he never abandoned his old flip phone and was suspicious of the internet and email, he was a trailblazer in using technology in his actual farming operation. He was the first grower to plant trial seedless watermelons, the first to transition from packing cantaloupes in wooden crates to cartons and the first farmer in the Imperial Valley to use the 1-ton baler. While he loved farming, his faith and his family were the most important aspects of his life. In 1958, Ben fell in love with a beautiful Swiss girl, Margaret Loretta Studer and they were married on January 23, 1960 at St. Mary's Church in El Centro. Over their 59 years of marriage, they welcomed 5 children and 14 grandchildren. Ben considered his family to be his greatest accomplishment and he took great pride in the fact that his children and grandchildren shared his love of agriculture. All five of his children have continued the Abatti farming tradition in Imperial Valley. Nothing brought him more joy than spending time with his grandchildren. He was an enthusiastic fan at their sporting events, an excited spectator at their performances and a wise mentor when they sought his advice. Ben was an avid hunter and enjoyed going hunting with his children and grandchildren. Ben was a loyal friend who was always willing to help others. He believed it was important to be involved in the community. He was an active member of St. Mary's Catholic Church where he served as one of the first Eucharistic Ministers in Imperial Valley. He was instrumental in the planning and construction of the new St. Mary's Church and supported other Catholic churches throughout Imperial Valley. In addition to his church involvement, Ben contributed to countywide youth programs including 4-H, FFA, high school and youth sports. He organized the first 4-H BBQ in Imperial Valley in 1976 and began a tradition of helping a wide variety of organizations raise funds by serving his famous deep pit BBQ. His support of 4-H and FFA members at the Junior Livestock Auction has provided a means for students to pursue their own educational opportunities. Ben will be deeply missed by the many people he touched throughout his life including his friends, workers, farming colleagues and especially his family. He was preceded in death by his parents, his brothers, Joe, Alex and Tony Abatti and his brothers in law Albert and Fred Studer. He is survived by his wife, his children Ben (Judy), Michael (Kerri), Jimmy (Deborah), Jennifer (Todd Mitosinka), Anna (Joseph Dhalliwal) and his grandchildren, Sarah Jane, Ben, Jordan, Braden, Cameron, Madison, Michaela, Matthew, Mary, and Audrey Rose Abatti; Loren and Ava Dhalliwal, Annika and Maija Mitosinka; his sisters Margaret Studer and Agnes Poloni (Louis) and numerous nieces and nephews. Services will be held on November 29, 2019 at St. Mary's Catholic Church in El Centro beginning with Rosary at 10 am followed by Mass at 10:30 am. Lunch will be served during a Celebration of Life in the St. Mary's Parish Hall after Mass. The Ben and Loretta Abatti Scholarship Fund has been established through the Imperial Valley Community Foundation. Donations can be made at or mailed to Imperial Valley Community Foundation, PO Box 2739, El Centro, CA 92244. Donations may also be made in Ben Abatti's name to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association, Greater San Diego Chapter at

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Published in Imperial Valley Press Online from Nov. 19 to Nov. 25, 2019.
10:00 AM
St. Mary's Catholic Church
Funeral Mass
10:00 AM
St. Mary's Catholic Church
Memories & Condolences
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21 entries
February 22, 2020
With deepest sympathy to the Abatti Family. May he rest in peace.
January 18, 2020
So sorry for your loss. Our sincerest condolences to the Abatti family.

Rick and Jodi Johnson
Laughlin, NV
Rick Johnson
December 2, 2019
Ben Please accept our condolences on the passing of your dad. Please know that you and your family are being lifted up in prayer during this difficult time.
Jim and Kim Montejano
November 30, 2019
God Bless the Abatti family. Ben was an icon
in the produce industry. Also a very nice person.
He will not be forgotten, Rest in peace Ben.
Irene Maddalena Reese
November 22, 2019
My heartfelt condolenses to the Abatti Family. I am honored to have known Ben Abatti since 1986 and the pleasure of working with him and his wonderful family at Abatti Produce over a span of 10 years. He was a sweet, good-hearted and good-natured man whom I admired. May you rest in peace.
Michele Porter
November 21, 2019
I will always treasure the great life lessons and vision I got from my visits with Ben and Loretta. Thanks for encouraging me to always look at the greater picture and dream big! You are very special to me! My prayers and condolences to your family!
Sister Lilia Barba, SJS
November 20, 2019
Although more than 50 years have passed Ben (uncle Ben) to me, his sweet wife Loretta and children Benny Michael Jimmy Jennifer and Anna touched my life in a very loving way. Together, they are a very loving family that always made me feel welcome. Uncle Ben had a genuine kindhearted spirit, that as a child was very comforting. His faith was the foundation to a life well lived. My prayers and thoughts are with the family now as they take Comfort in knowing he Is with our Lord Jesus. Respectfully Cindy McElvany (Bellitt)
Cindy Bellitt
November 20, 2019
My condolences to the family of Ben growing up in the great Italian
Culture of Imperial Valley Ben was always there for everyone I can remember many many times as a child growing up on the dairy in Holtville my dad Joe Terribilini and Ben talking and laughing o the laughter of two Italian men you could hear for miles great memories
In the years fallowing I would see Ben in town or at a event he didn't know my name but he knew I was a Terribilini so he would just yell
Hey Terribilini and say come va followed by a hug
The world will miss this man
Sylvia Terribilini Higginbotham
November 20, 2019
My most sincere condolences to the family. He was a kind, fare, hard working family man. It was an honor to have worked for him. I have fond memories. Loretta, Ben, Michael and Agnes, my thoughts and prayers are with you. Trini Diaz
November 20, 2019
My sincere condolence to Mr Ben Abatti's Family. Great Person. Thanks to him -and his family- my father (RIP) had a job for years, as well as many workers that daily come to work to Imperial Valley.
Rest In Peace Mr Abatti.
Susana Gomez-Estrada
November 19, 2019
We were so sorry to hear of Ben's passing. He is a Holtville legend. Prayers for the family through this trying time
Henry and Donna Garewal
November 19, 2019
I am so very sorry to learn of the loss of this wonderful man. He really set such a fine example of how to be loving, responsible, successful, and kind. He was not afraid of innovation and worked hard to achieve all that he did. What a blessing to have known him and to have been his son and daughter-in-law, Jimmy & Deborah.
Beverly Barrett
November 19, 2019
So sorry to hear of his passing. Our prayers for the Abatti family. God bless each of you

From the late Clement Wilson and his daughters Marlene & Linda
Imperial, Calif.
Marlene Wilson May
November 19, 2019
Mr. Abatti was an amazing man. He always had a smile for anyone and if you went to his home, as many of the 4-H members did, you became family. I remember him at all the events at St. Mary's School. He had a kind and giving spirit and he will be sorely missed. I, for one, am proud that I met him.
Cynthia Przytula
November 19, 2019
So sorry for the loss of a true Valley leader. His guidance will be sorely missed. May he rest in peace and his family be consoled by all the comforting words bestowed upon them.
Patty & Norberto Irungaray
November 19, 2019
Our sincere condolences and blessings to the family. May Mr. Abatti Rest In Peace. He was a generous man in support of his community and a soldier for his catholic faith. God bless you all.
Provencio family
November 19, 2019
My deepest sympathies go out to you and your family, May God give you the peace that you seek
Vanessa Cota
November 19, 2019
So very sorry for your loss, to all of Ben's family. He will be greatly missed. Rick and I have appreciated your friendship with George and Betty Luce. You always kept George alive for us. We send our love.
Rick and Maria Luce
November 19, 2019
Please accept my most sincere condolences, Mrs. Abatti, for your loss of your dear husband. I'm so very sorry, Jennifer and Anna. Prayers for peace and comfort to all.
Lara Kristine Yturralde
November 19, 2019
To have known Ben Abatti is to have known an individual who loved his family, his church, his community and his country. Our family has been truly blessed by the benevolence of Ben during the many years he supported our children at the Imperial County and Los Angeles County 4H fair auctions; we will always remember his caring love and sincere concern for youth. To each family member, we extend our heartfelt condolences at this time of bereavement. May the comfort and blessings of God surround each one of you.
Xen & Shirley Jones
Xen & Shirley Jones
November 19, 2019
Ben was a good and kind man. He will be missed by his family and the community. Condolences to his family.
Barbara Fusi
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