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Ralph Ketner hospitalized

Food Lion co-founders

Wilson Smith and Ralph Ketner stand in front of the first Food Town store in the Ketner Center.

Wilson Smith and Ralph Ketner stand in front of the first Food Town store in the Ketner Center.

Food Lion co-founder Ralph Ketner has been hospitalized.

Catawba College President Brien Lewis delivered the news Tuesday to the Salisbury Rotary Club, of which Ketner is a member, by reading an email from Ketner:

“I hope this email finds you doing well,” Ketner wrote. “For the past week, I have been hospitalized, having tests run. My CAT scan shows that in all probability, I have colon cancer. I am not choosing to have an invasive biopsy to confirm what the doctors are confident of.

“I have spent a lifetime building relationships with wonderful people, who are very special. With this in mind, I am requesting no visitors during my illness. I hope you will honor my wishes.”

Cards and notes can be sent to Ketner at Kiser Hospice Residential House, 1229 Statesville Blvd., Salisbury, N.C. 28144. Email for Ketner can be sent to his assistant, Angelia Bates, at asbates@catawba.edu, and she will provide him with copies.

Ketner, who turned 95 last year, has been a dynamic force in Salisbury, both as an entrepreneur and a philanthropist.

Last year, Food Lion partnered with Catawba to produce “Lessons in Leadership,” a documentary about the business life and philosophy of Ketner, who once presided over the fastest-growing grocery company in America.

Ketner said at the time that the Lord blessed him with a talent for figures — his mind for numbers is marveled at throughout the documentary — but he also wished he had been given a talent for words to express his appreciation to everyone.

“The Lord has used me,” he said last year.

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