“Tony embodied our industry’s commitment to innovation, conservation and entrepreneurship,” says Irrigation Association CEO Deborah Hamlin, CAE, FASAE. “He not only challenged Rain Bird, but all of us, to do the best we can, to elevate the industry and of course, use water intelligently.”
LaFetra first joined the business in 1964, serving as a plant manager and later taking on the roles of vice president of sales and marketing and then executive vice president. In 1978, he succeeded his mother, Rain Bird’s co-founder, Mary LaFetra, as president and CEO.
During his years at Rain Bird, he led the company’s transformation from a manufacturer of brass impact sprinklers, primarily used in agriculture, to a provider of irrigation products used worldwide in landscapes, golf courses, sports fields and farms.
His tenure was highlighted by innovations that revolutionized the irrigation industry, from the world’s first computerized central control system for irrigation management in the 1970s to the launch of subsurface drip irrigation. In 2002, he was honored with the IA’s Industry Achievement Award.
LaFetra represented Rain Bird and the irrigation industry with a passion not only for efficient irrigation but also as an advocate for education and giving back to the community. The industry and his community benefitted greatly from his many contributions, and his presence will be missed.