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Ralph Ketner’s legacy: Food Lion co-founder was adored, respected

Tributes to Food Lion co-founder Ralph Ketner, who died Sunday:

On behalf of our 63,000 associates, Food Lion mourns the loss of our founder, Ralph Ketner.  We extend our deepest sympathies to the  Ketner family during this difficult time. He had a profound and lasting impact on the entire grocery industry and he has left a tremendous legacy not only at Food Lion, but through his philanthropy and kindness in the Salisbury community as a whole. Forever a welcome and vital part of our family, even at 95 years old, Mr. Ketner still attended several Food Lion events. Our associates adored and respected him and we will miss him dearly.

— Food Lion

For a Rowan County native, the name Ralph Ketner is as familiar as that of any celebrity, musician, performer or politician. Even as a child, I vividly remember the respect and admiration of anyone who dared attempt to tell his story.

Regardless of age, I understood that Salisbury was Ralph Ketner, and Ralph Ketner was Salisbury. No matter where you look, his fingerprints seem to be present.

Although I have lived in this county for 34 years, I only recently had the honor of personally talking with Mr. Ketner. It was during this one brief meeting that I realized how truly special he was. Even as a 94-year-old, he seemed to recall history as if it was yesterday. He told stories with vivid detail. He knew names, facts, figures and statistics. Some of this information dated back more than 50 years. I sat in awe as he gave a brief glimpse into what our community was and what it has become.

I am thankful that I had even one opportunity to hear his story. Mr. Ketner was a man of great ambition and accomplishment. More importantly, he was a man that used his accomplishments to improve the community around him.

As a board of education member, I have witnessed his philanthropy firsthand. He has given his time, his money and his intellectual resources to improve our school system.

On behalf on the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education, I would like to thank Mr. Ketner and his family for their contributions to our system and our community. He will be remembered fondly for his work, his determination and his positive attitude. More importantly, he will remembered as someone who helped build our community.

—Josh Wagner

Chairman,
Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education

The amount of admiration, respect, appreciation, affection and love for Ralph that has been expressed is simply remarkable. I hope he had some inkling of the amazing, positive impact he had on so many lives — and across so many generations.

My own family enjoyed his company tremendously and he inspired each of us. I am deeply grateful for that personally but even more so for the example he showed to Josh and Anna Louise — and knowing that will be a part of them for the rest of their lives.  Knowing Ralph has truly been one of the great delights and highlights of our time in Salisbury.

I loved his clear sense of right and wrong.

I loved his openness to trying new things and new approaches.

I loved his deep and peaceful confidence in his faith.

I loved his concern for people and how he shared what he earned and learned.

I love how he could disagree strongly with someone and continue to love them and support them.

We all loved Ralph for who he was, what he did, and how he did it.

— Brien Lewis

President, Catawba College

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