In Memory: Wendell Lundberg

Jun 17, 2016
Wendell Lundberg
 Wendell Lundberg

USA Rice extends condolences to the family and friends of Wendell J. Lundberg, the second eldest of four brothers who built Lundberg Family Farms, a national leader in organic rice and whole grain products.  He died on Sunday, June 12, 2016 at Enloe Hospital in Chico, CA. He was 85 years old.

Wendell J. Lundberg was born August 17, 1930 in Holdridge, Nebraska to Albert and Frances Lundberg. In 1937, Wendell and brothers Eldon, Homer, and Harlan moved with their parents to Richvale, California.

After graduating from Biggs High School in 1948, Wendell attended UC Davis, where he completed a two-year course in agronomy. At Davis he was a founding member of the Cal-Aggie Flying Farmers Club, learning to fly at age 19 and igniting a passion for aviation that persisted throughout his life and resulting in thousands of hours at the controls. Wendell transferred to Chico State College in 1950 and earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial arts and a teaching credential in 1953. After graduation, Wendell traveled to Australia to manage a rice experiment in Darwin, Northern Territory. This began a lifelong love of world travel that took Wendell to Africa, Europe, and South America, among other destinations. He returned to Richvale in 1955 to farm rice with his father and brothers.

In 1969, Wendell and his three brothers built a small rice mill in Richvale and started milling the rice they grew on their farm. They also launched a catfish hatchery, which Wendell managed. Wendell and his brothers went on to become the first farmers in America to successfully grow and market organic rice. Passionate about organic and eco-positive farming practices, Wendell and his brothers sought to honor their parent’s mission to produce wholesome, healthful rice products while protecting and improving the environment for future generations.

Wendell met his future wife, Carolyn Osborn in 1968. They married three years later and together raised three children, Jessica, Joe, and Alysicia Lundberg. Married for more than 45 years, Wendell and Carolyn Lundberg were also proud grandparents to four grandchildren, Rebecca, Alexandrea, Ivan, and Maxine.

In 1974, Wendell joined ten other local businessmen to found TriCounties Bank, which eventually grew to 62 branches in 23 California counties. Wendell served as a director of the bank until his retirement from the Board in 2007, continuing service as a Director Emeritus.

I
n addition to being a committed husband, father, grandfather, leading employer, and driver of the local economy, Wendell Lundberg was recognized with an honorary Doctor of Science degree for his longtime commitment to CSU, Chico in 2013.

Passionate about education and investing in the minds of the next agricultural generation, Wendell served on advisory boards of the University including the College of Agriculture and the education department. A man of many hats, this prestigious degree also recognized Wendell’s commitment to service beyond the University, which included serving as a director of the Butte County Rice Growers Association, director of Trico Bancshares, member of the California Rice Industry Committee, director of North State Crime Stoppers, president of the Chico Chapter Experimental Aircraft Association, and elder of the Chico Evangelical Free Church.

Wendell J. Lundberg is survived by his wife, their three children, four grandchildren, brother Homer and many nieces, nephews and grand-nieces and grand-nephews.

A viewing will be available at Newton Bracewell in Chico, Friday, June 24
th, 4pm – 8pm. The memorial service will be at the Chico Evangelical Free Church on Saturday, June 25th at 3pm, with a reception immediately following.