SAN FRANCISCO — Robert J. Di Giorgio, former board chairman of the Di Giorgio business empire, has died after a long illness. He was 80.
Di Giorgio, who died Wednesday, retired in 1982 but remained a member of the board of directors and chairman of the executive committee of Di Giorgio Corp.
The Di Giorgio Corp., which began as a 35,000-acre fruit farm founded by Di Giorgio's uncle, developed under his leadership into a diversified international marketing concern that included food processing, drug and food distribution, building materials and real estate development.
He was a member of the boards of directors of Bank of America, Carter Hawley Hale Stores, Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Co., Union Oil of California and Newhall Land & Farming.
Di Giorgio was born in New York City and educated at the Lawrenceville School, Yale University and Fordham Law School.
In 1937, he joined the family business and served as treasurer and executive vice president before becoming president in 1962. In 1971 he was named chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the conglomerate that at one time had 30 divisions.
He remained proud of the role the company played during World War II of maintaining many of the orchards owned by Japanese-American families incarcerated during the conflict. The farms were given back to the returning families.
After the war, Di Giorgio raised $1 million for several San Francisco youth agencies. He served as a trustee of the University of Southern California.
He is survived by his wife, Patricia Kuhrts Di Giorgio, four children, a sister and five grandchildren.