Paul and Swanee Dimare: A Sensational Couple
Whose generosity helps thousands of people (and dogs)!
By Alice Fisher
Mr. Tomato and the Tomato Lady Really Truly Love Tomatoes!
If you know Swanee DiMare (and who doesn’t), you will agree she is quite a “tomato,” dressed in her elegant designer gowns and seen at most of the non-profit galas in town. (Actually her fun moniker is “The Tomato Lady.”) And beside her is her husband Paul, distinguished in his Brioni tuxedo, who is a riveting communicator affectionately known as “Mr. Tomato” because his company is one of the largest grower of fresh-market tomatoes in the United States.
Together the DiMares are a dynamic couple who are legendary role models in the philanthropic world. That is one of the many reasons that The American Red Cross will be honoring Swanee and Paul with the American Red Cross Centennial Humanitarian Award at its gala on Saturday, March 25, at the Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne.
Swanee and Paul were attracted to the American Red Cross when they saw the devastation that Hurricane Andrew brought in 1992. “It was like a bomb had hit South Miami and Homestead. It gave me the chills,” says Swanee. “What most people don’t know,“ she continues, “is that the Red Cross is privately funded — there is no government involvement.” Since the Red Cross is on 24/7 the organization needs all kind of equipment to respond to any disaster. “Disaster, “she says,” is not selective.”
Says Julia Rea Bianchi, Chairman of the American Red Cross Board of Directors: “We are honored to be presenting the Centennial Humanitarian Award to Swanee and Paul DiMare. They are among the strongest supporters of the American Red Cross and are members of the Chairman’s Circle, our highest and most prestigious giving society. Their longstanding commitment to the Red Cross is recognized in stone at Red Cross Square in Washington, DC. As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Red Cross service to our local community, we also celebrate the generosity of spirit, time and treasure of Swanee and Paul DiMare.”
Swanee, named by her grandfather, has lived in Miami her entire life, and Paul, a native of Massachusetts, met at Little League with their sons almost 35 years ago. (They will be married 28 years in April.) Between them they have five sons, three of whom are in the family business. And one, Gino, was just named the next head baseball coach for the University of Miami’s Hurricanes. Paul is a member of the University of Miami Board of Trustees, and together the couple’s support has touched all areas of the University from athletics, education, medicine, the arts — and more. (The list of charities they support goes on and on — everything from Women of Tomorrow, The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, The Humane Society of Greater Miami, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Catholic Charities and Miami City Ballet.) Swanee doesn’t just lend her name to a charity and attend the ball. When she commits to an organization, she gives it her all and is actively involved.
One of the things that attracted Swanee to Paul was that he was always immaculately dressed. “Who would know he was a farmer,” she quips. But farmer he has been for the past 50 years. He actually goes into the fields and gets his hands dirty working in every aspect of the business. One of his proudest accolades was being named 2016 Florida Farmer of the Year. His family companies, DiMare Brothers, Inc. and DiMare Homestead Inc., are an American success story.
Paul’s father started the business in 1928 by selling vegetables in a pushcart on the streets of Boston. Paul and his two bothers expanded the business with farming in the 1940’s in California, and the rest is tomato and veggie history. Today the DiMare Companies, which grow, pack and ship tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash, have operations in Florida, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania and California.
When Paul came to Florida in 1964 to take over the operations, the first year he grew his crops on 150 acres of rented land. His farming operations now encompass 1,350 acres of owned land. Says Swanee with great pride,” Paul is responsible for making the company the success it is today. He is the salt of the earth.”
And how does one go about picking out a great tomato? “Buy American!” she emphatically states. (Now you know!) And Mr. Tomato and the Tomato Lady really, really love tomatoes. Swanee says they eat them everyday — hers in an egg white omelet with tomatoes and Paul enjoying them sliced topped with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, onion, and oregano. In addition, they have sliced tomatoes as a side dish every night at dinner. Yum!
On to Swanee’s extraordinary fashion style and how she manages to wear a different designer gown to all the balls she attends. Funny story: Swanee wore a particular dress to the Queen of Hearts gala where she was honored and decided to wear the same dress to the opening of the Miami City Ballet a few months later. A woman she didn’t know stopped her in front of a crowd of people and announced that she loved the dress when she wore it to the Queen of Hearts. She was so embarrassed that now she keeps track of where she wore which gown. Might be mind- boggling to some, but Swanee has a system. She simply recycles her dresses. Once worn they go in the back of the closet and emerge a few years later.
But Swanee does admit she always loved clothes. Her favorite designer: Oscar de la Renta. Some of her favorite stores to shop: Neiman Marcus and Saks. And her favorite mall: Bal Harbour, although lately due to the horrendous traffic on “Useless One” (her name for US 1), Swanee hangs out more in Merrick Park. Whatever Swanee’s system, it works — she is always fabulously dressed and the belle of each ball she attends.
With all their involvement in the community does this fast-paced couple ever get time to relax and enjoy a hobby? “Definitely,” says Swanee. “We love to golf and in the summer go to our home in Massachusetts and play as often as we can.” Swanee is also an avid reader. Some of her favorite authors are David Baldacci, Michael Connelly, Danielle Silva and for light reading Sandra Brown. Swanee is certainly an all around gal who is loved and admired by her many friends. The couple is very passionate about making Miami a place that excels in education, research, healthcare, and the arts. “Miami is just not fun and sun,” she says. And through their incredible philanthropy they are helping to make our community a topnotch first-class destination.
Thank you — Swanee and Paul!