David Ray Peterson, 65, passed away on Sunday, September 8, 2013, in Verona, Regione del Veneto, Italy. David was born to Dorothy (Rusk) and Arvid Verner Peterson on February 16, 1948, in Rio Grande City, Starr County, Texas. He and his wife of forty-three years, Karen Boykin Peterson, made their home in Mission, Texas.
A memorial service will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 21, at St. John’s Episcopal Church in McAllen. There will also be a Celebration of Life in College Station on Saturday, October 26, with time and place pending.
David is survived by Karen and their three sons, Lance Arvid, his wife Marcela, and grandchildren Carmen and David Peterson Cardenas of Colima, Colima, Mexico; Daren Ray, his wife Jennifer, of Houston; and Ryan Clay of Mission; a brother, Robert Arvid Peterson, his wife Diana, of Mission; Tissa Peterson, wife of brother James (who preceded him in death), and numerous devoted nieces and nephews. He was also preceded in death by his parents.
David is a 1966 graduate of Rio Grande City High School and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration at Texas A&M University in College Station in 1970. At A&M, he was a member of the fightin’ Texas Aggie Corps of Cadets Air Force Squadron 1 (Huslin’ One), where he made many lifelong friends. He served the squadron as executive officer his senior year. After graduation, he was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. He received training in Munitions and Nuclear Weapons at Lowry AFB, Denver, Colorado. His first assignment was with the 83rd Fighter Interceptor Squadron of Air Defense Command (ADC), Loring AFB, Maine, where he was awarded the Air Force Meritorious Service Award. He then served thirteen months of duty at Kunsan AFB in South Korea, where, as a 1st Lieutenant, he served as Munitions Officer in charge of nuclear weapons, munitions loading, and missile maintenance. Again, he earned the Air Force Meritorious Service Award for outstanding service in Korea. His last assignment was at Little Rock AFB, Arkansas, where he served as Wing Weapons Safety Officer as a Captain.
After four years of active service to his country, David returned to the Rio Grande Valley to work with his father, brothers, friends, and partners at Starr Produce Company from 1974 through 2005, working in a variety of capacities, including being manager of Los Puertos Farms, head of the International Division, and eventually serving as president of the company. He was key in the expansion of the company’s international operations in Tecoman, Colima, and Campeche, Campeche, Mexico.
Along with son Lance and partners Cesar Ramirez Guerra and Nazario Rodriguez Guerra, David bought the Tecoman, Colima operation and founded the company Red Starr, which David served as CEO until his death. The company produces and exports honeydews, personal watermelons, and papayas to the United States, Canada, Japan, and Europe. He was also a founder of Tex Starr Distributing LLC, which was a partnership between Super Starr International and Fresh Tex Produce (Kenny Alfred and Jesus Falcon) in Alamo, Texas. Tex Starr Distributing handled all sales of papayas for Red Starr, as well as honeydews in the United States and Canada. Under his leadership, the company developed the Royal Star Papaya, a unique variety of papaya categorized as a specialty fruit. The Mexican Papaya Association presented the Outstanding Papaya Grower of Mexico Award to David in 2010. Lance stated, “Dad’s years of experience and vision were the catalyst that helped Red Starr become a major producer of honeydews, personal watermelons and Royal Star papayas out of Mexico.”
David was a lifelong supporter of Texas A&M University and was actively involved in Texas AgriLife Extension projects in College Station and Weslaco. He served as president of the Texas Vegetable Association and was a member of the Texas Produce Association, serving on the Exporters Committee. David was also on the board and was a past president of the Rio Grande Growers Coop in Starr County. He served as a trustee on the school board of the Sharyland I.S.D. in Mission.
His interest and encouragement of young people was demonstrated by the Texas-Mexico Connection in Agriculture trips, which he helped organize and conduct for Texas 4-Hers and Collegiate 4-Hers, who travelled into Mexico to learn about all facets of the production and shipping of produce. He was also a faithful supporter and sponsor of the Starr County Fair Association, which promotes youth of the county and provides scholarships.
David and Karen were very active members of St. Peter and St. Paul Episcopal Church in Mission, where he served as a member of the Bishop’s Committee, as an usher, and as a Cursillista.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to St. Peter and St. Paul Episcopal Church, 2310 N. Stewart Rd., Mission, Texas 78582.