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Naumes receives humanitarian award

Sue Naumes, a fixture in Jackson County’s pear industry, is receiving some recognition after a life serving the community.

The former manager of Naumes Inc., one of the largest pear companies in Southern Oregon, recently received the humanitarian of the year award from St. Vincent de Paul.

Naumes, 73, said she is still surprised that she won the award, considering the significant efforts of the many volunteers at St. Vincent.

“All those older men and women, they’re the real humanitarians,” she said. “St. Vincent’s a fabulous organization.”

She praised Len Hebert, who has supported St. Vincent over the years and who helped start the humanitarian award a decade ago.

Naumes said the volunteers treat the homeless population with dignity and respect, offering them food, clothing, laundry facilities, a place to shower and other resources.

Medford Mayor Randy Sparacino also recently proclaimed June 25, 2021, as Sue Naumes Day to recognize her legacy.

Naumes helmed Naumes Inc. for decades and took over the reins of the company from her father, Joe Naumes, who started the company in 1946.

At its peak in the 1980s, Naumes Inc. had 7,500 acres of pears along the West Coast.

Her grandfather, Pete Naumes, came to Hood River in 1907 and moved to Southern Oregon after losing everything in the Great Depression.

But the family’s legacy in the pear industry endured, and the commitment to local organizations is a continuation of something she can trace back to her grandfather, who started Associated Fruit.

“It’s part of the Naumes DNA to give back to the community you live in,” she said.

Naumes has been involved in many local organizations and was the chair of the Oregon Community Foundation.

“Our valley is a better place to live because of what she’s done over the years,” said Len Hebert, who is active with St. Vincent.

He said the award is given not just for being a volunteer and helping the needy at his organization, but also for other efforts to help the community.

Hebert said Naumes had the idea to expand the green bag program from Ashland into Medford and other communities about a decade ago. The green bags are used by the Neighborhood Food Project to collect food from households across the valley, which is then distributed through a number of pantries to those in need.

Naumes has served on countless boards and committees over the years, including the Medford Irrigation District Board, Rogue Basin Water Users Council Board, Rotary Foundation, The Carpenter Foundation, The Walker Advisory Committee and The Joe and Frances Naumes Family Foundation.

Naumes was the first female president of the Oregon State Horticultural Society.

This July marks the 70th anniversary of the creation of Naumes Inc.

To this day, Naumes volunteers her time at St. Vincent, particularly around the holidays.

“I’ve always been involved in the community,” she said.

Reach freelance writer Damian Mann at dmannnews@gmail.com.