For more than 50 years, the humble farmer invited area children to visit his ranch and pick out a free pumpkin. School buses filled with kids would arrive at the Venetucci pumpkin patch every October to celebrate the annual harvest and select the perfect jack-o-lantern for Halloween.
As a boy, Venetucci dreamed of being a professional baseball player. He even landed a spot as a catcher in the New York Yankee’s farm system, but returned home in the 1930s to work on his family’s ranch. Over the next seven decades, Venetucci made a living selling sweet corn, alfalfa and asparagus, but he grew hundreds of pumpkins each year just for the kids.
In honor of his generosity, the Widefield School District renamed an elementary school after Venetucci in 1985. A bronze statue of the Pumpkin Man, designed by sculptor Fred Darpino, is scheduled to be unveiled in October.
Venetucci died on Sept. 7 following a stroke. He was 93.