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AZUSA, Calif. – Anthony W. “Tony” LaFetra, president and CEO of Rain Bird Corporation, passed away on Jan. 29, 2021.
LaFetra led the company’s transformation from a manufacturer of brass impact sprinklers, primarily used in agriculture, to a provider of irrigation products used worldwide in landscapes, golf courses, sports fields and farms.
LaFetra joined the business in 1964, first serving as a plant manager and later taking on the roles of vice president of sales and marketing, and then executive vice president. In 1978, he succeeded his mother, Rain Bird’s co-founder, Mary E. LaFetra, as president and CEO.
His tenure was highlighted by innovations that revolutionized the irrigation industry, from the world’s first computerized central control system for irrigation management in the 1970s to the launch of subsurface drip irrigation to save water and reduce the need for herbicides.
LaFetra was an advocate for education. He earned bachelor’s and MBA degrees from Stanford University. He was a life-long learner and placed high value on the education of Rain Bird employees.
Outside of Rain Bird, LaFetra sat on the boards of directors of several universities. He most recently sat on the Board of Trustees at the University of La Verne, and he donated to establish the LaFetra College of Education.
He was also passionate about giving back to the community. LaFetra supported many organizations, including but not limited to, the Theodore Payne Foundation, Citrus College Foundation, California Native Plants Society and the United Way.
In his free time, LaFetra enjoyed fishing and hiking and the botany of the Southern California deserts and mountains. On weekends he would escape to his cabin in the nearby mountains, where he was known to enjoy improving his property using his bulldozer.
LaFetra is survived by his two children, Suzanne LaFetra Collier and Michael LaFetra; his sister, Sarah Lynne Ludwick; his brother-in-law, Art Ludwick; as well as four grandchildren.
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