Michael Vernon LaGrande (1943-2020)


On Saturday morning, March 7, 2020, Michael V. LaGrande pulled his boots on for the last time. Mike passed away of heart failure in the midst of his cows, joyfully bantering with his friends and cowboys, doing exactly what he loved. He was seventy-six.

Born in 1943 to Adele and Matt LaGrande, Mike was their third child and described as a happy boy. He graduated Bellarmine College Preparatory School in San Jose, California, going on to study business and agriculture at California State University Chico before beginning a life-long career of farming and ranching.

Mike and Kristine were married in Klamath Falls, Oregon, and settled in Williams, California where they raised their children and were active in every aspect of life.

Mike and his brother Ron began in the land leveling business, financed with a small loan from their uncle, Harold LaGrande. In 1969, Mike planted his first crop of cannery tomatoes, and in 1979 his first crop of rice. In 1982, he bought his first cows. In 1986, together with his brother Ron, his cousin Palmer Traynham and several others, Mike was a founding partner in California Pacific Rice Milling, Ltd (Cal-Pac) and served as its President in the mid 1990’s.

In 2000, Mike and his son Ken co-founded Sun Valley Rice. Mike served as President & CEO until 2006, and has since served as its Chairman. Proud of his role as a rice miller, Mike pioneered many innovations and new directions, constantly exhorting his team to see the next possibility. He was active in the USA Rice Millers’ Association, serving as its Chairman in 2006-2008.

Mike took an early interest in advocating for water causes. In the early 1980’s, together with Harold Myers, Mike chartered a United DC-10 and sold tickets locally to bring an entire planeload of constituents to Washington DC to promote the need to fund construction of the Tehama-Colusa Canal. He served as a board member of the Westside Water District, the LaGrande Water District and the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District.

Horses were Mike’s personal passion. Kristine and Mike met Dema and Jim Paul in the early 1980’s, and never looked back. Mike showed as a non-pro in the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity and Maturity multiple times. He’s owned countless horses, won a few buckles, and made many a great friend looking at and riding horses.

Mike was a member of the Frontier Boys, the Arbuckle Golf Club, Reames Country Club (Klamath Falls, Oregon), and the Glenn-Colusa Cattlemen’s Association.

Perhaps most importantly, Mike LaGrande loved to have fun. He enjoyed every day, he loved to laugh and to help others to laugh. A devout Roman Catholic, he was a man of deep personal faith, attending mass nearly every Sunday wherever he found himself. He had special friends, whom he valued enormously, and he had countless lives which he touched throughout the many industries, countries and continents through which he traveled.

Mike is survived by his second wife Cindy, his children Michelle and Ken (Julie), his beloved grandsons Andrew and Maxwell, his brother Ron, his sisters Penny Lux and Nancy Smith as well as dozens of cousins, nephews, nieces and friends. Mike was preceded in death by his parents, Adele and Matt LaGrande, his brother Sam, and his wife Kristine.

Funeral arrangement will be private. A memorial service will follow later this spring.

In Mike’s memory, his family suggests supporting a charity of your choice. ■

Arrangements are under the direction of
McNary-Moore Funeral Service – FD-410 • (530) 458-2111

03/18/2020 • WPR #2020-0367