Ketner deserves a lasting tribute

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 11, 2014

Ralph Ketner founded Food Lion (then Food Town) around 1957. He has provided thousands of jobs in Rowan County, not to mention tens of thousands in the eastern portion of America. Along with this, Mr. Ketner made many, many millionaires who invested in his dream and vision.
Only this is not enough to be said of Ralph Ketner. Mr. Ketner has donated millions of dollars to Catawba College and helped the school to raise tens of millions through the years. About 10 years ago, Mr. Ketner started affordable housing for people who couldn’t even afford a home and did this through no profit for him.
Mr. Ketner bought the Wallace Building (now called the Plaza) and spent a fortune remodeling it. He then donated it to the city of Salisbury. These are just a few things that Ralph Ketner has done for Salisbury/Rowan. He is truly a “super hero” with a heart as big as the state.

While visiting Oklahoma about 15 years ago, I flew into the Oklahoma City airport — and was amazed to see a statue of Will Rogers. My thought even at that time was that I couldn’t remember a lot about Will Rogers, but what I learned about him is that he doesn’t compare to our Ralph Ketner. If Oklahoma City can put a statue of Will Rogers in its airport, why can’t we put a statue of Ralph Ketner in Salisbury? He has done more than any one man in my life time. … He is actually bigger than life to most of us.
We have the new building on South Main, and it looks like we are getting a new school administration building on North Main, and we have a beautiful Confederate statue on West Innes.
I have looked all over town, and coming from I-85, the median at Long Street and East Innes Street (where the median widens) would be a wonderful place for a statue of Ralph Ketner. No one has done more for us.

It would be a wonderful tribute to a man who innovated low food prices and has done so much for so many. He’s more than 90 years old, and it would be marvelous to let this man know how we feel while he is alive, not after he passes.
I would bet the funding for this would be easy to raise, whether through a grant of some sort, a contribution between the city and county or even private donations. I further recommend to the school board that the two books on Ralph Ketner (“Five Fast Pennies,” an autobiography, and “The Lion’s Share” by Mark Wineka) be required reading by students of all ages. What better history could they learn?
On the statue, wouldn’t this be a great inscription:
“Five fast pennies is better than a slow nickel.”
— Ralph W. Ketner, Food Lion founder
Ralph Baker lives in Salisbury.