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Harold Richard (Dick) Weinreich grew up milking cows on a farm in Ogilvie, Minn. Fiercely independent, he left home at age 15 and didn't graduate from high school, but he took the knowledge he'd gained and got one of his first jobs working in a small creamery in Mora, Minn.

As his knowledge and skills grew, Weinreich moved on and became a milk and ice cream sales manager for Land O'Lakes in Minneapolis. Later, he bought his own dairy company, which evolved into a popular juice distributor.

Weinreich, who operated his own business for more than 30 years, died Tuesday at his home in North Branch. He was 77.

Weinreich bought Chisago Lakes Dairy in Lindstrom in the 1960s. Having grown up on a farm and spent so much time milking cows, he loved the dairy business and was dedicated to perfecting his craft, said his wife of 24 years, Nancy.

"He loved every aspect. He grew up on a farm and he wanted to learn how to do it," said Nancy Weinreich. "Everyone said his butter was excellent."

But small companies like Weinreich's were facing challenges.

"It was the early years of big dairies buying up small dairies," said his son Bruce. "Having worked for Land O' Lakes, my dad understood what was coming."

Trying to stay a step ahead, Weinreich converted his dairy operation into something new: an orange juice bottler and distributor. He dubbed it O-Jay Juice Co. What started as an experiment to stay competitive turned out to be a lucrative venture, said another son, Jacob.

From 1973 to 1978, the business expanded its services from Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas to Illinois, Michigan, Nebraska and Colorado. The company grew from $100,000 in sales in 1965 to more than $9 million in 1986, said Jacob Weinreich, citing a 1993 research paper by a University of Minnesota student.

"He was really innovative," Jacob said. "He converted his machines used for bottling milk to bottling orange juice, and I think he was one of the first ones around the area to do that."

In addition to his wife, Nancy, and sons Bruce and Jacob, Weinrich is survived by his mother, Betty; three other sons, Steve, Chris and Mark; a daughter, Kathy Perry; a stepson, Kevin Reynolds; two sisters; two brothers; 15 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Gregory Catholic Church in North Branch, Minn. A visitation will start at 9:30 a.m.

Hannah Gruber • 612-673-4864