Obituary of Dean Cortopassi (1937-2022) – Stockton, CA

Dean Albert Cortopassi
September 22, 1937 – February 10, 2022
STOCKTON, California — Dean (Dino) Albert Cortopassi, 84, of Stockton, died on February 10, 2022 of complications from a stroke.
Dino was born on September 22, 1937 to Italian immigrant parents Amerigo and Teresa Cortopassi in Stockton, California.
After graduating from Stockton High School in 1954, Dino contracted rheumatic fever that damaged his heart but not his drive. Instructed by his doctor to drive “light”, Dino got behind the wheel of a truck, but “light” wasn’t in him and he suffered a mild heart attack. When doctors told him he needed to rest or he would die, he took the advice of his future father-in-law and former Stockton mayor, Dean DeCarli: “You can’t work, why don’t you go to Davis — you love farming and it is the best agricultural school in the country”.
Dino received his AA degree from the University of California, Davis in 1958. At Davis, Dino would immerse himself in agricultural economics and soil science during the day and host an open game of poker at his apartment at night.
After graduating, Dino got his first job as a grain buyer for Pillsbury and developed a deep understanding of markets, trading and risk management. Over the years he has often referred to this three-year experience as his “Pillsbury MBA”. In 1958, Dino married his high school sweetheart, Joan DeCarli, at Morris Chapel in Stockton. They had four children: Gino, Katie, Becky and David.
From 1958 to 2022, Dino was involved in farming and agribusiness. His friends referred to him as “Larger than life” and “A force of nature”. Concerned about future farming prospects and wanting a life for him that required a less intense work style, his immigrant parents decided to lease the farm for 15 years. Dino was 20 years old and loved farming but didn’t own any land. Not to deny his passion, Dino started his career as a farmer by renting a 65 hectare plot which he cultivated for his first crop. Through smart, hard work and eager use of technology, he increased the 150 acres he leased more than 100-fold to 7,000 acres he now owns. These farms have been affiliated with several partners including Cortopassi Partners, Cocoa Farms, Del Rio Partners, Lodi Farming and still work with excellent managers and partners who have been handpicked and cultivated by Dino over many years to provide “best and best practices”. to understand. for modern agriculture.
Since acquiring Cal-Gift, a specialty curing company in 1968, Dino has also been intrigued by perhaps the more strategic “other end of the cow” – the processing, packaging and marketing side of the agribusiness. From what he learned about sales and marketing channels in his Cal Gift days, Dino had the confidence to move forward and invest in several other companies: Stanislaus Food Products, Gilroy Canning, Sierra Quality Canners, Muir Glen Organic Tomatoes, and Corto Olive. He understood each of these companies inside and out, possessing an eye for detail, an astute financial acumen, the discipline to maintain the highest quality, and a passion for success. Stanislaus Foods was his crowning achievement when he turned a small tomato cannery in Modesto, California into the largest fresh pack tomato cannery in the world. This was achieved through his insistence on the highest quality and his ability to build and maintain brands through marketing. Dino instinctively knew how to connect with his independent pizzeria and Italian restaurant clients by sharing his story of how he “grew up Italian” and tried to “get ahead”.
Those are the things Dino loved. Dino loved his 64-year-old wife Joan and their four children and ten grandchildren. Dino loved his extended Italian family in Lucca, Italy, loved visiting his relatives there and speaking Italian with them. He loved Italian family traditions passed down to him from his father Amerigo: making homemade wine, homemade salami and sausage, and olive oil. Dino and Joan enjoyed throwing parties for their Stockton friends who they have known for over 60 years.
Dino loved a challenge, faced a weakness and turned it into a strength. He loved taking a well-calculated risk, going all-in when the odds were right, and winning a bet. He loved a weed-free tomato stand and a clean and organized orchard. Dino loved well prepared, fresh and tasty Italian food like his mother Teresa and wife Joan prepared. Dino loved growing up in the Stockton Delta, Delta waterfowl, hunting, his dogs, fly fishing and knew all about these subjects. He developed his own waterfowl habitat, the “Black Hole” in the delta, to promote waterfowl conservation. Dino loved to criss-cross the United States on his Harley Davidson with his best buddies, reciting stories from the Lewis and Clark Expeditions or famous Civil War stories.
Dino loved focus and hard work, striving for excellence, striving to be better, striving to get ahead. He loved watching his favorite football, basketball, and baseball teams, especially when they were winning, but the most important thing for Dino was extracting and recognizing their winning strategy. When asked about it, Dino was happy to offer advice and consultation to family members, business people and friends facing difficult problems or life decisions. Dino would ask a series of questions, synthesize silently, then present a series of options and let the listener decide what is best for him/her.
Things Dino hated included: boasting, falsehood, and deceiving peasants or the general public, especially government officials. Dino was resolute, a David more than willing to take on any Goliath. In 1969 he sued giant Libby McNeil and Libby for breach of contract and won. In 2008, he sued then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for mismanagement of California state funds. In 2011, he ran ads about what he perceived as mismanagement of California state politics by Gov. Jerry Brown. In 2014, he continued his campaign against California fiscal mismanagement (liar, liar!). This began Dino’s 2016 Proposition 53 crusade against revenue bonds, a “blank check” for the state of California to fund billion-dollar infrastructure projects without voter approval. Most recently, Dino has been involved in several legal efforts to get the California Department of Water Resources to be good stewards of the delta and protect its habitat.
Dino’s excellence in various fields has been recognized and honored by several bodies. Dino was selected as one of four Outstanding Young Farmers in the United States in 1970. In 1973, Dino was inducted into the Young Presidents Organization of outstanding business leaders under the age of 50. In 2005, Dino was inducted into the Horatio Alger Association, for those who overcame adversity and ultimately succeeded. In 2014, Dino completed his “story”, Getting Ahead: A family’s Journey from Italian Slavery to American Success. Dino saw himself as a descendant and representative of his Italian tenant family who could “represent” for the family.
Dino and Joan have been part of several non-profit organizations. In 1990, Dino and Joan founded the Cortopassi Family Foundation, which supports Boots on the Ground charities in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.
Some of Dino’s favorite sayings: “Life is a banquet where many go hungry”; “Arithmetic is not an opinion”; “Chance favors the prepared mind”; “Get in position to be lucky”.
Dino has always been curious about how things work and what drives them, whether it was a business or a machine. He read four newspapers a day: Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, and Stockton Record. In the 1960s he designed and patented a new type of tomato vine trainer. He designed a deer hunting tent that could fit everything that was needed at the same time. He designed his house Capecchio from the foundation to the roof in the style of an Italian country house.
Dino was deceased by his father Amerigo Cortopassi and mother Teresa Cortopassi. Dino is survived by wife Joan, four children and ten grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to: The Salvation Army Lodi Corps and/or St. Mary’s Dining Room in Stockton. A private service is held by the family.

Published by The Sacramento Bee on February 18-21, 2022.

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