Vernal Anthony Amaro

December 25, 1926May 25, 2012

Vernal Anthony Amaro, an agricultural icon, age 85, passed away peacefully at his home on Friday, May 25, 2012. Vernal was born in Selma, California, on December 25, 1926, and grew up on a small dairy and raisin farm with his only sibling, Melvin. He attended Terry Union Elementary and Selma High school where he excelled in sports and FFA. During his youth, Vernal was chosen by his fellow athletes, the "Letterman" recipient for his junior and senior years of high school for football, basketball and baseball. His first mechanical endeavors were converting an automobile into a tractor to replace the horses that were used to pull equipment thru the vineyard and connecting the rear wheel of the family truck to an ice cream maker, which worked well until the unanticipated torque of hardening ice cream pulled the vehicle off the jacks. After graduating, Vernal enlisted and attended basic training to become a paratrooper. After completing his commission, he returned to Placerville College to play football and continue his education. From Placerville he transferred to Fresno State University and was enrolled in the first viticulture class taught by Professor Emeritus and lifelong friend, Vincent Petrucci. After his return to Selma, he met Vaunda Leen "Vicki" Driskill while she was working at the local movie theatre and soon thereafter, they were married. They moved to Burrell in 1963 where Vernal worked hard and Vicki raised their four sons, preparing three meals a day from scratch and insuring everyone had clean, ironed clothes for work and school. Vernal began his agricultural career partnering with his cousin, Marvin Amaro to grow potatoes, tomatoes, cotton and alfalfa in Burrell, California. (often bank rolled by their respective parents, Joseph and Margaret of Selma and Frank and Helen Amaro of Fowler). By the early 1960's, Vernal and Marvin became acquainted with McCarthy/Hildebrand Farms also located in Burrell, primarily due to their friendship with Leland McCarthy and recognition of his "much larger and better maintained equipment yard". Leland McCarthy, with kind heart and a keen sense for business suggested "it would be better for the two of you to work for me, than the two of you to wear out my equipment", thus, beginning an era of agricultural expansion and innovation. Marvin Amaro and family relocated to Griffith, New South Wales, Australia to pioneer while Vernal and Leland began pioneering within the US. Throughout their lives, all three men visited each other often sharing business innovations while creating many family memories. Over the next 25 years, Vernal worked tirelessly with Leland and many other notable academia, agriculturists and employees to develop over hundreds of thousands of acres of agriculture, including 70,000 acres of permanent crops throughout California, 18,000 acres of cotton and peanuts in west Texas, thousands of acres of sugar cane farming including two sugar mills in southern Louisiana and with cousin Marvin, large scale cattle and sheep ranching in Australia. His contributions through various joint ventures and partnerships included Vernal, Leland and Richard Cook with one of America's largest insurance companies to develop San Bernabe in Monterey County; the world's largest contiguous planting of varietal wine grapes. Vernal and Leland are also credited with the introduction of pistachio farming to California and planting the original 140 acres of "Wonderful" pomegranates which is the parent orchard for Stewart and Linda Resnick's POM Wonderful Empire. With his partner and lifelong friend, Leland McCarthy, he was credited with co-inventing and patenting the first mechanical wine grape harvester along with similar systems for olives and pistachios. They became an early supporter of the Viticulture & Enology Research Center at CSUF, where their financial contributions helped sustain the program in its initial stages. Vernal was honored by the Monterey Business Counsel in 2007 as a "Monterey County Pioneer" celebrating his achievement of San Bernabe vineyard. He was named "1978 Viticulturist of the Year" by the Enology & Viticulture Department at Fresno State University for his contributions to the California wine industry. In Vernal's latter years, he grew and packed tree fruit, table grapes, raisins and melons. He developed the first portable "field packing" melon line that pre-sized melons, improving fruit utilization and allowing cartons from the field to be shipped within 12 hours of harvest. In 2000, he developed and patented the first mechanical "Dried on the Vine" (DOV) grape/raisin harvester used today for harvesting thousands of acres of DOV grapes. Vernal's last invention and patent, a joint effort with John Andreini of San Mateo and Leland McCarthy, was the first mechanical pomegranate harvester completed two years ago and currently working at POM Wonderful. Vernal passed away still enjoying the challenges of his work, as he had his entire life. He left us while continuing improvements to his pomegranate harvester, managing Flores Pistachio Ranch, Kettleman Orchards, LLC and consulting to Pacific Ag Consulting and Grow Holdings, LLC. Vernal will be remembered for his creative inventive drive. His often direct stare and inquiry into "why" or "why not" coupled with his insatiable desire to "do a deal" was at his core. He mentored hundreds of admirers but never mentioned his achievements or accomplishments other than as a basis to find the "next one". When not working, Vernal enjoyed decades of BBQ's and holiday festivities with family and friends. He was never more comfortable than sitting in his back yard entertaining and observing the interactions of all. If he could stir up some "humorous" based controversy between siblings or in-laws while enjoying a fine glass of wine and cigar, his day was made. Vernal always sported a starched button-downed shirt, pressed blue jeans (the handiwork of Vicki), cowboy boots, fashionable sports jacket that were his well-known trademarks. At first impression, he appeared intimidating, critical and aggressive, but to those that knew him and loved him, he was extremely shy, feared public speaking but sought out and made thousands of "one on one" friendships. Vernal will forever be remembered for his uncanny powers of observation and problem solving, unprecedented vision, pioneering spirit, perseverance, sharp humorous wit and overwhelming generosity. The family wishes to extend their deepest gratitude to the following, who where there daily, assisting with Vernal's well-being; Frank Perrera, Diane, Tracy and Bart Flores, Sammy Eknoin, Peter Miroyan, Peggy Holiday, Quay Hayes, Sean McCarthy and the caretakers of Auspice and Hospice. He was preceded in death by his son Michael; his brother Melvin; his cousin Marvin; and his lifelong friend and partner Leland McCarthy. He will be deeply missed by those that survive him, including his wife, Vicki; sons, Terry and his wife Cindy of Clovis, Thomas and his girlfriend Lee Ann Brown of Visalia and Theodore "Ted" and his partner Hal of San Francisco; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. The Family wishes to invite relatives and friends to an outdoor casual-attire luncheon in "Celebration of Vernal's Life" on Saturday, June 30, 2012, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at 5459 E. Geary Ave, Fresno, Ca. 93727. The family requests any remembrances be made to either; CSUF Viticulture & Enology Department, Fresno State, 2360 East Barstow Ave., Fresno, CA 93740, Attn.: Carrie Irby, phone number is 559-278-2089; or Clovis Community Medical Center Foundation.



  • Private Family Graveside Service Thursday, May 31, 2012


  • Celebration of Life Memorial- Celebrating Vernal's Life

Vernal Anthony Amaro

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Bill Mills

June 30, 2012

A man who meant so much to so many. The Mills family has pretty much left this earth before Vernal, but they all recognized how important he was to them as a whole. To me, I remember him back as a young kid working in the fields, when he took time to stop and say, "Hey, let's go on a picnic; which seemed to me that he turned into a three syllable word. We would go to the Kettelman City grocers and pick up some cold cuts and drive to a hill, so he could look over all of the land. He truly enjoyed it, and I appreciated his taking the time to share it with me. I only mention this to show that he was the type of man who would share himself with everyone. Even a kid out working in the fields. Thanks again, for all he did for Gordon, Joe, and the rest of the Mills.

Virgil & Bud Eischen

June 26, 2012

Vernal lived an active, full life and acquired many friends along the way. We are sorry for your loss.

Dick Wilson

June 24, 2012

I first went to the West Side in the winter of 1960 as a salesman for Niagra Chemical. I wasnt long after that that I met Vernal and Leland. in about 1961 I became the manager of West Valley Cotton Growers and continued to see Vernal and Leland from time to time. I was there when Vernal invented a topper for Lelands cotton when it got to tall and was again there when he invented his vacum cotton picker to try to mimick hand picked cotton quality. Over the years I would see Vernal and Leland after leaving the West Side and going to work for Federal Land Bank. One time I had the pleasure of flying from Selma to Dudley Ridge with them with Vernal piloting the plane. Over the years we had some good times and I never saw Vernal without the white shirt, blue jeans and sport coat. Needless to say those were the "Good Old Days" I know he and Leland are gone on to another venture in the sky. Dick Wilson, Kingsburg, CA

Patt and Ron Price

June 20, 2012

You will be missed Uncle Vernal. Not only your kindness and generosity, but your warm laugh. We had many good times in your backyard. God bless you and rest in peace. Prayers are with you Auntie Vick and families. We love you all.

Thomas Amaro

June 16, 2012

The family is inviting all relatives, friends and acquaintenances to attend Vernal's "Celebration of Life" banquet; Saturday, June 30 from 11am to 2pm at his residence in Fresno. Casual warm attire is welcomed.

Jan Chadwick

June 3, 2012

Rest in Peace, Uncle Vernal. I love you and will miss you. My thoughts and love are with you Aunt Vickie, Terry, Ted and Tom, and all your families. Love, Jan

Stephens & Bean Chapel

May 31, 2012

Offering our deepest condolences during this difficult time.