STERN, William A. “Bill, Jr., Katelyn Jane “Katie”, and Jennifer J.


William Arthur ‘Bill’ Stern, Jr (65), President and owner of Stern Produce, his wife, Jennifer Jane Plank Stern (53) and their daughter Katelyn Jane ‘Katey’ Stern (19) died when their plane went down shortly after takeoff from Montgomery Field in San Diego, California enroute to their Phoenix home on Saturday, December 29, 2012.


Bill, a Phoenix native, was born in Phoenix on September 2, 1947 to William Arthur Stern (deceased) and Norma L. Koon.  He attended Encanto and Clarendon elementary schools and West Phoenix High School.  He was quarterback of his high school football team, the Thunderbirds.  Bill was a member of The Fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta at Arizona State University.


He graduated from ASU and went into the family business with his mother and father.  Stern Produce was established by his grandfather, William Alfred Stern in 1917.


Bill’s sense of adventure and love of sports included racing cars, skiing, swimming, golfing, boating and flying.


Bill is survived by his mother Norma, his daughter Victoria ‘Tori’ (Brian) Heintzelman, his son William Arthur ‘Billy’ Stern III, his sister Linda (Chuck) Bergstrom, grandchildren Ashlyn, Brayden, Brittlee and Brantsen Heintzelman, nephews Erik (Jennifer), Christopher (Nicole) and Timothy (Aimee) Bergstrom.  Grandnieces and nephews Bergstrom and the mother of Tori and Billy, Penny (Larry) Gunning and the ‘family’ associates of the Stern Produce Company.


Jennifer was born August 19, 1959 to William Dean Plank (deceased) and Mary Jane Nelson in the doctor’s office in Granby, Colorado.  She graduated from Sidney High School in Sidney, Nebraska.  She worked in Lincoln Nebraska and Breckenridge Colorado before moving to Phoenix where she was a Flight Attendant with the “new airline” America West for 10 years. While she had many stories as a Flight Attendant, one of her proudest moments was when she flew the troops home from the Iraq War through Bahrain. After marrying Bill in 1991, she retired from the Airline and focused on raising Katey, leading her tennis team as team captain at PVCC and various charity work throughout Phoenix. Jennifer enjoyed many activities with Bill including skiing, snorkeling, and anything Katey was involved in.


Jennifer is survived by her mother Mary Jane Nelson Plank, sister, Julie(Stan)Gray, brothers, Brian(Elena)Plank, and Scott Plank, nieces/nephews Jordan Alexandra, Erin Samantha Gray, McKenzie(Reyna)Plank and McKayla Plank and family  members in California, Colorado and Alaska.


Katelyn “Katey” was born in Scottsdale on July 2, 1993.  She attended Hopi Elementary School, All Saints Episcopal Day School, Xavier College Prep and Arcadia High School.  She was loving her freshman year at Southern Methodist University as a Merit Scholar and was looking forward to pledging a sorority.  Katey was a beautiful girl with a kind spirit and an infectious laugh.


Katey is survived by all those above who loved her and we will miss her dearly, as will her many friends.


A Memorial Service for them will be held at 2:00 pm on Sunday, January 13, 2013 at St. Barnabas on the Desert located at 6715 North Mockingbird Lane, Paradise Valley, Arizona.


Memorials in their honor may be made to the Stern Family Memorial Foundation care of Arizona Community Foundation 2201 East Camelback Road Suite 405 B Phoenix, AZ  85016.


Arrangements entrusted to Whitney & Murphy Funeral Home and Post Scripts by Posey.




Condolence Messages

  1. allene roberts

    Mary Jane has been an inspiration to me. I send my prayers
    and thoughts to the whole family. I cannot imagine the grief they
    are all going through. I send deepest sympathy to all of them

    Love One Another,
    Allene Roberts, a friend. from INJOY at ACC church..

  2. Kitty Chappell

    My heart aches for all who loved this wonderful family. I can offer no words that better express what you are now feeling than those in the below poem.

    by Kitty Chappell
    Copyright 1989

    When I hurt, Lord, and fear my pain will slay me
    As I fight my unwanted flood of circumstances;
    When life’s stormy waters would pull me under
    As they lash relentlessly at my very foundation,
    Lift me up, Lord.

    When the strongest hope I have is to but awaken
    From a bad dream and see life as I’d like it to be,
    But cries from my soul shout the pain of reality
    In my ears, and my eyes see things as they are,
    Help me trust, Lord.

    When my soul is hollow with hurt and I feel fragile
    And wonder why, when yesterday I felt so strong;
    When I fear I will shatter into a million pieces
    Unless You embrace me with Your arms of love,
    Hold me together, Lord, until I am mended.

    * * *
    Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you, they will not overflow you, for I am the Lord your God, your Savior. You are precious in My sight, and I love you.
    Taken from Isaiah 43 – NASB

    My prayers are with you.

    Kitty Chappell
    Arizona Community Church

  3. Jo Fitzpatrick

    I enjoyed many days of tennis with Jennifer at PVCC. We shared many common interests – I was a Pam Am flight attendant many years ago, love skiing and water sports and of course tennis! I was devastated to hear of their tragic crash and could relate all too closely with that as my husband and I are both private pilots and flew our own airplane for 18 years. My deepest sympathies to all of the family for losing such wonderful and beautiful people in your lives. You are all in our prayers!!! Sincerely, Jo and Jim Fitrzpatricck

  4. Bill & Renay Janisch

    Dearest Norma and Family,
    Bill and I want you to know that you are in our thoughts and prayers, we are sorry for your loss. We hope that you are all well and know that you are in our hearts, We hope to see you Sunday.

    Love to you all

    Bill & Renay, your Pine Neighbors

  5. Greg Yancey

    Bill was a great businessman, P*A partner and friend. His passion for life was evident in many ways and he will be greatly missed.

  6. Greg McElvain, Cleveland

    I went to high school with Jennifer in Sidney, Neb. We were seniors in 1978. I remember her as vibrant and fun-loving. Although I had lost touch with her through the years, she went on to have a great life and build a wonderful family. To the Stern and Plank clans, I am heartily sorry for your losses. You are in my thoughts.

  7. Phil and Kathy Muir

    Bill and Jennifer were such great friendly people who actually cared about others. Bill was a great business partner and they will be sorely missed. Our condolences to the family in this time of mourning.

  8. Charles and Teri Gilbert

    There are no words to describe my feelings for the loss of The Stern Family. I’ve known Bill and Jennifer for over 18 years and they will br greatly missed. My heart and prayers go out to Bily Jr and his sister Tori.

  9. Shirley Clark

    I was Katies nanie for her first couple years, she was such a little doll, and iv thought of her and Bill, Jennifer so often, and how Katie turned into a beautiful young lady, this really breaks my heart. my prayers go out to Bills Mom and Tori and Billy as I knew him, Iv Got very good memorie from the time I spent With this wonderful Family, they will always be in my heart, all gone to soon.

  10. Terry and Mary Collins

    My the God of all creation surround you with His comfort and peace during this time and always. 1Peter 5:7

  11. Manny Costa and Carolyn Rodio

    Carolyn and I send our deepest condolences to Billy and Tori and everyone who knew and loved Bill, Jennifer and Catelyn. It is still impossible for us to fathom this loss which will remain with us for a very long time to come. First and foremost, Bill was a friend as well as a staunch business partner and supporter for nearly twenty years. As our chairman for three years, he added a common sense clarity and wisdom in dealing with the many issues and challenges of the day. But most of all he and Jennifer will be remembered for their love of life, their grace and style, the many kindnesses bestowed on us and others and the love of their family.

    During our many trips and meetings in Monterey, Bill and I always seemed to spend an evening together as he, Carolyn and I did last July. Leaving business aside he had many laughs over drinks and dinner and now we will cherish those memories in the wake of this unimaginable tragedy.

  12. Mark Hepola

    I sold to Stern Produce for three years and worked with Billy and occasionally with Bill. They were professional and kind and as I got to know them more as our realationship grew they treated me like family which I will never forget.
    I never had the privilege of meeting Jennifer and Katey but knowing Bill I wish I had.
    My heart goes out to Billy and Tori.

  13. L Hiram(Larry)Adams

    My condolences to the Stern family I know the loss and feel your pain. as an officer with Valley National Bank in Glendale in the 60s I had a lot of contact with those at one level of the produce business or another and Bill was one of them.

    He was considered by all of us to be the Guru if you will of the local produce industry and was known world wide for his vast knowledge in this area.

    My thoughts and prayers are with all of you and I waish you God’s Blessing during this time of healing.

    Thanks for your time.


  14. Anne Bell

    I would like to express my deepest condolences to your family. After the loss of my husband and daughter I found comfort from God’s word the bible. He is near to those broken at heart. Ps 34:17,18 Also, note Jesus’ words of comfort spoken to Martha, who had just lost her brother, at John 11:23-25, “Jesus said to her: “Your brother will rise. Martha said to him: “I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.”Jesus said to her: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life.”

  15. Barbara Hokom

    Jane and Family,
    My heart goes out to you during this devestating time. I will always remember Jennifer as a young, vibrant, teen with a bubbly personality. May you receive comfort from your faith in the difficult times ahead. Know our thoughts and prayers will be with you.

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