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Updated: 05/09/2014 08:00:01AM

Howard E. Sorrells

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Howard E. Sorrells, 87, of Arcadia, Florida, passed away on Thursday, May 8, 2014.

Mr. Sorrells was born in Hiram, Georgia, on September 17, 1926.

After graduation from Hiram High School in 1943, he joined the Unites States Army (1945-1947) and worked at the Pentagon in Washington, DC. Upon discharge, he completed a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from his beloved University of Florida in 1951. Mr. Sorrells was a devoted Gator and could be seen wearing Gator apparel everywhere.

He married Celia Blount Sorrells on May 20, 1951. During their 62 year marriage, Howard and Celia had four daughters: Marie Sorrells (1955-1968), Jane Sorrells Cline (Adrian) of Arcadia, Susan Sorrells of Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, and Julie Sorrells Timmons of Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. Mr. Sorrells is survived by five grandchildren: Jonathan Olive, Benjamin Cline, William Cline, Audra Timmons, and Keegan Timmons.

After moving to DeSoto County in 1951, Mr. Sorrells and his brothers were leaders and innovators in the development and expansion of the local citrus industry. Together the founded Sorrells Brothers Packing Company in Arcadia and successfully operated it for decades, providing a valuable marketing outlet for fresh fruit growers in Southwest Florida. In addition, they developed and planted many acres of citrus groves in DeSoto County, becoming one of the most reputable and premier caretaking services, intermediate handlers, and harvesters in Florida.

Mr. Sorrells was appointed to the Florida Citrus Commission by Governor Lawton Chiles and served from 1991-1998. During his tenure, he served as vice-chairman for one year and subsequently as chairman for four years. During Mr. Sorrells’ term as chair, he helped to redirect the citrus industry from a production orientation to a marketing orientation. To quote Mr. Sorrells, “The Commission as a whole felt we needed a marketing program. We have learned how to grow citrus, and now we have to find more effective ways to sell it.” The success of this approach was proven by a 3% increase in orange juice volume sales. He also served as a member of the Florida Citrus Mutual from 1957-1997. On the local level, Mr. Sorrells was a member of the Peace River Valley Citrus Growers Association.

His commitment to agriculture in Florida was not limited to citrus as he was actively engaged in growing watermelons and served on the National Watermelon Association and the Florida Watermelon Association. In 2008, Mr. Sorrells was recognized with the National Watermelon Association Lifetime Achievement Award.

For all of his contributions to Florida agriculture, Mr. Sorrells was honored by induction to the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame in 2010. He was so proud of this recognition.

Mr. Sorrells actively worked to improve his community, particularly in the area of education. From 1968 – 1980, Mr. Sorrells proudly served on the School Board of DeSoto County serving as chairman of the board from 1971-1973. In addition, he was a charter director for the DeSoto County Education Foundation. Mr. and Mrs. Sorrells stressed the importance of education to their daughters and each graduated from college and became successful in different medical fields.

A visitation is scheduled from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. Saturday, May 10, 2014, at Calvary Baptist Church, 1509 E. Oak St., Arcadia. The funeral will take place at 2:00 p.m. Saturday, May 10, 2014, Dr. T. Howell Upchurch will conduct the service. Burial will immediately follow at Joshua Creek Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Tidewell Hospice.

Online condolences can be made at

Ponger-Kays-Grady Funeral Homes are in charge of the arrangements.

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