Food Lion co-founder named Man of Era

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 19, 2011

By Mark Wineka
The Salisbury Lions Club honored Food Lion co-founder Ralph Ketner as a “Man of the Era” at the club’s annual banquet Tuesday night.
At the same dinner, the club also recognized Salisbury law firm partners Bill Graham and Mona Lisa Wallace as the 2010 Man of the Year and Woman of the Year, respectively.
The club has been honoring both a Man or Woman of the Year and a Lion of the Year since 1943.
Only three people in the past have been Men or Women of the Era: J.F. Hurley Jr. and Dr. Frank Marsh, both in 1973; and Elizabeth Stanback in 1999.
The Salisbury Lions Club named James L. Fisher “Man of the Half Century” in 1950.
“I tell you one thing,” Ketner said Tuesday night. “I got surprised.”
Ketner’s knack for numbers and his zeal for low pricing helped to lead Salisbury-based Food Lion to its dramatic growth as a grocery chain, from one store in 1957.
In introducing Ketner, Lions Club member Brad Farrah described the former Food Lion chairman and president as a Christian, veteran, brutally honest, golfer, storyteller, philanthropist, entrepreneur, salesman and a man who knows no strangers.
Ketner didn’t dispute any of the description except the one about his being a golfer. “They were lying a little bit that I could play golf,” he said. Then he corrected himself.
“They were lying a lot,” he said.
Ketner’s late brother, Glenn Ketner Sr., was a charter member of the Salisbury Lions Club.
Farrah said he wished Ketner could have been an advisor to local, state and national governments because they could use his cost-cutting ideas.
He added that Ketner has been “a true gift to Salisbury and the Salisbury community.”
Wallace and Graham are partners in Salisbury’s largest law firm. Each individually and through the firm has contributed greatly to charitable interests in the city and county.
“You can depend on her, and she always does the right thing,” said 2009 Man of the Year Larry Cloninger in recognizing Wallace as the club’s Woman of the Year.
Wallace could not attend Tuesday night’s banquet, and her daughters, Whitney and Lane, accepted the award on her behalf. Their mother has been recognized as one of the top 100 attorneys in the state and nation.
But Lane Wallace said her mother never missed a piano recital or a tennis match as both of the girls were growing up.
Whitney Wallace said her mother started the law firm from scratch as a 27-year-old. “She just wakes up every day and starts helping people,” Whitney said. “She really is an absolutely amazing woman.”
Graham was able to attend, and he said he could not have accomplished anything without the help of his wife, Shari.
“We love what we do, we love this community,” Bill Graham said of the couple’s charitable work and contributions.
On a personal note, Graham said the Lions Club and its work for the visually impaired meant a lot to him because his grandfather lost his vision to diabetes before he died.
“You know, they say there are good men and great men,” Cloninger said. “Bill Graham is one of the great guys.”
Dr. Albert J.D. Aymer, president of Hood Theological Seminary, was the banquet’s guest speaker, and he was introduced by former Salisbury Mayor Margaret Kluttz, who is now development officer for the 300-student seminary.
Last year’s Lion of the Year was Lori Swaim. This year the award went to Phyllis Ohm, whose work for the club includes the catering of the Rowan County Visually Impaired Christmas Party and an important role at the VIP Fishing Tournament at the Outer Banks.
Ohm’s hands are in every club-related activity outside the weekly meetings, Swaim said.
The Salisbury Lions Club has a distinguished history and enjoys a reputation as one of top Lions Clubs in the district and state.
Salisbury has produced nine district governors, two chairmen of the State Council of Governors, a State Council secretary-treasurer, two presidents of the N.C. Lions Foundation and four state White Cane chairmen.
At present, Salisbury Lions are serving as district cabinet secretary, district cabinet treasurer, district membership chairman and district budget and finance committee chairman.
The past 10 Men or Women of the Year have been Newton Cohen, Ronnie Smith, Arnold Chamberlain, Susan W. Kluttz, Bill Godley, Wilson L. Smith, Jim Foltz, Rose Post, Carl Repsher and Cloninger.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.