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Joseph Edward Gallo Jr., 87; split from his renowned winemaking family to make cheese

LIVINGSTON, Calif. -- Joseph Edward Gallo Jr., who broke from his winemaking family to make cheese and then waged a high-profile spat with his famous brothers over use of the Gallo name, has died. He was 87.

Mr. Gallo died Feb. 17 at his home in Livingston of a longtime illness, Donna Bradley, a spokeswoman for Joseph Farms, said Thursday.

Joseph Gallo was born Sept. 11, 1919, in Antioch, Calif. , the youngest brother in a family of winemakers.

His two older brothers, Ernest and Julio Gallo, would later start E. & J. Gallo Winery Inc.

After serving in the US Army Air Corps during World War II, he returned to California to work as the ranch manager of his brothers' grape-growing operation in Livingston and also developed his own vineyard and cattle business.

"He was a very hard worker, and he had a lot of foresight," said Richard Witter, a longtime friend.

In 1979, Mr. Gallo built his first dairy with 4,000 milking cows.

He followed it with four more and began marketing a line of cheeses with his full name, a move that caused a rift with his brothers.

They sued Joseph Gallo in 1986 to stop using the Gallo name, and the youngest brother countered with a suit arguing that the brothers owed him a third of their winery because they had used their inheritance to launch the business.

Joseph Gallo lost the legal battles and changed the name of his business to Joseph Farms, a company that now employs about 500 full-time workers at five dairies and a cheese plant.

His wife described him as a kind boss who loved the outdoors and a good laugh.

"He had such a wonderful sense of humor," said Patricia Gallo. "He didn't care if the joke was on him; he'd laugh anyway."