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Kenneth Alan Barnebey, a founding executive of Tropicana Products Inc. and a longtime Manatee County and Florida civic leader, died on February 2, 2018. He was 86.
Mr. Barnebey, who retired as Board Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Tropicana in 1981, was part of the executive team assembled by company founder Anthony Rossi as the Italian immigrant built a start-up fruit-shipping company into an integrated industrial giant that shipped beverages around the world and was listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
A native of Fremont, Neb., Mr. Barnebey grew up in Temple Terrace in Hillsborough County and attended the University of Tampa, University of Maryland and University of Washington. A veteran of the Korean War, he joined Rossi’s fledgling fruit company in the early 1950s as customer service manager and rose to the company’s highest ranks as it expanded in east Bradenton. He served as Sales Manager, Vice President of Sales and Executive Vice President, before becoming President. From shipping fresh fruit to high-end clients in New York, including the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, Tropicana invented a process called flash pasteurization, which rapidly raised the temperature of juice to preserve its fresh taste. By 1971, the company was sending 65-car trains loaded with frozen concentrate juice (known as the “Great White Juice Train”) to East Coast markets twice a week. Tropicana was sold to Beatrice Foods in 1978, and later to Pepsico, the current parent corporation.
After leaving Tropicana, Mr. Barnebey served as Deputy Chairman of American Agronomics and as a consultant to several of Florida’s largest firms.
Long active in corporate and civic organizations, Mr. Barnebey served as a director of the National Association of Manufacturers, the Florida Citrus Commission, the Florida Processors Association and the Florida Governor’s Council of 100. The council is a private, nonprofit, non-partisan organization created in 1961 by Gov. Farris Bryant to advise him on key Florida issues from a business perspective. Mr. Barnebey was a personal friend of former Governors LeRoy Collins, Reuben Askew, Bob Graham, Bob Martinez and Lawton Chiles.
He served on the board of directors of the Asolo State Theatre, State College of Florida, and Manasota Water Basin Board. He chaired the Economic Development Council for the Manatee Chamber of Commerce. He was also on boards for The American Academy of Achievement, Florida State University, University of Tampa, Dependable Insurance Co., First Union Regional Bank, Community Bank, Executive Service Corps of Tampa, and the Tampa Bay Hall of Fame.
He was a member of First Baptist Church of Bradenton, where he served on the church Deacon Board and taught Bible study for 50 years. In Blowing Rock, N.C., where he maintained a summer home, Mr. Barnebey was an associate member of First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock. He also was a director of the Blowing Rock Stage Company, Blowing Rock Hospital, Blowing Rock Home for Women and was president of the Blowing Rock Country Club.
Mr. Barnebey was preceded in death by his wife of 48 years, Faith, who died in 2016, as well as a daughter, Laurel. Survivors include a son, Mark (Marianne) of Bradenton; daughter, Kendra Whitehead (Brent) of Terra Ceia; and six stepchildren, Robert King High Jr. (Ruth Ann) and Holiday High, both of Tallahassee; Virginia (Cindy) Bunton, Ormond Beach; Valerie Bogos, Tampa; Bonnie McDonald (John), Whispering Pines, NC; and Susan High, Ormond Beach. He had 18 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren. He was also preceded in death by his parents, Hoyt and Mae Mott Barnebey; brothers Hoyt, Arthur and Keith; and sisters Gayle Flowers and Muriel Moore.
In his retirement, he enjoyed spending time with friends and family and organizing reunions in Bradenton and Blowing Rock. He was the rock of his family, a uniquely devoted husband and wise counselor to many and even followed all his grandchildren on Facebook. Loving beyond measure and much beloved, he will be forever missed.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to En Gedi Retreat, c/o Carl Walker, Post Office Box 774926, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477, a retreat for clergy and their families.
A visitation will be held at Griffith-Cline Funeral Home on Saturday, February 10, 2018 between 2:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., 720 Manatee Avenue West, Bradenton, FL 34205. A burial service for the family will be in Blowing Rock, North Carolina.
En Gedi Retreat
Post Office Box 774926, Steamboat Springs CO 80477