A "giant" in the farming business in Chatham-Kent and Ontario has fallen.
Brian Fox, 68, of Dover Centre, died Friday while vacationing in Greece with his wife Jeanne.
The couple has three children -- two girls and a boy.
Fox was instrumental in re-introducing the sugar beet industry in Ontario a decade ago and served as the first chairman of the Ontario Sugar Beet Growers' Association.
The sugar beet industry in Ontario was relaunched in 1996 on a trial basis to provide additional supplies for the Michigan Sugar Company.
Four area growers produced 350 acres of beets the first year.
Today, more than 10,000 acres are grown in Chatham-Kent and Lambton Counties by 90 farmers.
In Chatham-Kent the beets are harvested, stock-piled and then trucked to the processing plant in Croswell, Michigan.
For many years there were two sugar beet processing plants in Chatham-Kent -- one in Chatham and the other in Wallaceburg.
The industry died out in the 1970s due, in part, to competition from cane sugar.
Word of his Fox’s death came as a shock to family and friends.
"Brian was a dedicated farmer and family man,'' said Glenn Jack, a neighbour and former chair of the beet growers' group. "He was a good friend and colleague.''
Jack said Fox will be "sadly missed.''
He said calls are pouring in from sugar beet growers both in Ontario and Michigan, home of the grower-owned Michigan Sugar Company.
Wayne Martin of Dover, a field man for Michigan Sugar Company, described Fox's death as a "tragic loss to the sugar beet industry and to farming in general in Ontario.''
He described Fox as a "very solid citizen who will be sadly missed by his family and many friends.''
Martin said it's hard to believe that Fox is gone.
"He was always so helpful,'' he said. "He was a very helpful man.''
Fox, who enjoyed travelling, had visited Turkey and Israel and was in Athens, Greece. Reports are that he had taken an afternoon nap after visiting the Coliseum and never woke up.
Patti Watson, administrator of the sugar beet association, said she enjoyed working with Fox and will sadly miss his presence.
"Brian and the board were very efficient,'' she said.
"We will all miss the man with the big voice and we will mourn the loss of the man, without whom, the sugar beet industry in Ontario could very well never have existed,'' said Mark Lumley of Sarnia, current chairman of the sugar beet association.
Funeral arrangements are not known at this time.