The Kiwi Queen, Mushroom Queen, The Packer’s 1979 Produce “Man” of the Year, Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, died Jan. 18 at the age of 96. She lived a very long and healthy life. In fact, she became a vegan at the age of 95, choosing a plant-based diet.
Dr. Rapoport Caplan was an incredibly vibrant woman her entire life and most recently received the Center for Growing Talent Catalyst Award, which she accepted in person October 2019 during the Produce Marketing Association convention in Anaheim, California. Keynote speaker Queen Latifah saluted the Kiwi Queen when she took the stage.
Dr. Rapoport Caplan began her career in produce by working for Giumarra Brothers on the 7th Street wholesale produce market (the company was managed by her husband’s aunt and uncle). After a few years, the landlord of the produce market, the Southern Pacific Railroad, encouraged her to start her own business.
So on April 2, 1962, she opened Produce Specialties Inc. on the LA Wholesale produce market with light lavender signs. She was the first woman to own and operate a wholesale produce company in the United States. That purple color turned into the company’s “trademarked” color, and to this day, most everyone in the produce industry associates “purple” with Frieda’s.
Dr. Rapoport Caplan was eventually joined in the business by both her daughters: Karen Caplan in 1977 and Jackie Caplan Wiggins in 1983. Her greatest joy was that she got to work side by side with her daughters every day. Most recently, two of her grandchildren, Alex Berkley and Sophia Jackson joined the now third-generation family business.
Dr. Rapoport Caplan was a political activist her entire life, starting with student body campaigns she ran while she was a student at UCLA. In 1945, she was named “Miss UCLA” for being the best-known person on campus.
She was active in many local organizations, which provide support to people regardless of age, gender, race, color, sexual orientation or financial status. Some of her favorites were: Dramatic Results, Trust Women and Women Against Gun Violence. She also supported the ACLU, Anti-Defamation League and Planned Parenthood.
She was part of a longitudinal study being conducted at UCI Mind Institute in Irvine, California, to help find the cause and cure for Alzheimer’s. After her passing, her brain was donated to UCI Mind so it could be studied to help solve this terrible disease.
A celebration of life will be held on Feb. 22, the location and time to be announced. The family suggests anyone wanting to make a donation in her memory, to choose one of the organizations which were important to Dr. Rapoport Caplan: Dramatic Results (Long Beach), UCI Mind, Trust Women (Kansas), Women Against Gun Violence (Los Angeles), American Civil Liberties Union – ACLU (Los Angeles), Anti-Defamation League (Los Angeles) and Planned Parenthood (Orange and San Bernardino Counties).