Rio Queen Citrus’ Ken Martin dies

Rio Queen Citrus’ Ken Martin dies

Ken Martin, who left a short career as a funeral director and mortician in Missouri to manage what became one of the Rio Grande Valley’s major citrus operations, has died.

Martin, who in recent years became a Napa Valley winemaker, died Aug. 7. He was 77.

Martin grew up on a dairy farm in southwest Missouri, attended Southwest Baptist College and then Dallas Mortuary College, moving to Fulton, Mo., to become a funeral director. There, he met his future wife, Sue Ware, according to his obituary. They moved to the Rio Grande Valley in 1970 to help her father manage citrus orchards.

Ken Martin’s initial entry into the Texas citrus industry was as a farmer, tending the groves for Warehouse Farms, the company his father-in-law, James Ware, founded in 1970. Ware sold his interest in the company in 1987, and the company name changed to Rio Queen Citrus Inc. in 1998. 

Rio Queen grew, packed and shipped Texas citrus, and Martin was a proponent of the Rio Star grapefruit. The company also sold onions year-round with supplies from Texas, Mexico, Colorado and New Mexico.

The family exited the Texas citrus industry in 2012, when it sold to Paramount Citrus, later renamed Wonderful Citrus.

The Martin family bought a Napa vineyard, naming it Italics Winegrowers, in 2014.

A funeral service is scheduled for Aug. 20 at the First United Methodist Church in McAllen, Texas.