Ralph Ketner obituary May 31, 2016, Founder of Food Lion, Out of money dropped out of college, Child of the depression no money but blessed with an attitude point of view, I saw problems as opportunities in disguise, Example for young people and management

Ralph Ketner obituary May 31, 2016, Founder of Food Lion, Out of money dropped out of college, Child of the depression no money but blessed with an attitude point of view, I saw problems as opportunities in disguise, Example for young people and management



When I read the Obituary this morning in the Greensboro News Record I had to share it.

I have a connection to Mr. Ketner beyond where I was born.

His story should be an inspiration to anyone, especially young people and to modern day business management.

“SALISBURY Ralph W. Ketner, whose generous spirit created, inspired and encouraged generations of phi lanthropy in Salisbury; and whose business acumen created employment, wealth and security in our region and across the nation, went home to God on Sunday, May 29, 2016. Although a business icon, it was his kind, loving essence that made him so special and beloved by those who called him father, brother, hero, mentor or friend. Mr. Ketner’s wit and heart sparkled through his eyes and smile, and he exuded something special that always sought the good in those he met.Mr. Ketner was president, and the last of a trio of men who founded Food Town (later Food Lion) in 1957. He, his brother Brown and their friend Wilson Smith wanted to start a grocery store in Salisbury, but they had no money. They called friends and strangers from the phone book, to invest $10 a share, and ended up with 125 original investors. An original share of Food Town stock eventually split 19,440 for 1. Each $28 of original investment created a million-dollar return during Mr. Ketner’s tenure. Not only did the Ketners and Smith succeed, they made millionaires of their friends and neighbors. This extraordinary success didn’t happen overnight. In 1967, deciding that “you can’t buy people’s business you’ve got to earn it,” Mr. Ketner, a mathematics whiz, locked himself in a Charlotte hotel room for days, determined to figure out a way to lower prices on grocery items. His book, “Five Fast Pennies,” describes his process of drastically reducing prices and profits and counting on dramatic increases in volume, or “five fast pennies instead of one slow nickel,” to be successful. Food Town had to increase sales by 50 percent to break even, so Mr. Ketner “bet the company” and convinced his board to take the risk. In combination with exceptionally skillful buying and operations, that risk paid off and Food Town/Food Lion became the fastest growing supermarket in the nation, with the stock outperforming Microsoft, Walmart, and even Warren Buffet’s company, Berkshire Hathaway. In the 1970s, the grocery chain grew by 35 percent a year. It expanded across North Carolina and the nation. The Belgian company Delhaize purchased stock in Food Lion during this time period. That relationship continues today. Always looking for cost savings, when it became necessary for Food Town to change its name as it grew, Mr. Ketner came up with the name Food Lion because he’d only need to buy two new letters for store signs.Mr. Ketner’s philosophy was customers first, employees second, stockholders third and management last. Food Town/Food Lion had a profit-sharing program for employees from day one. Twenty percent of pre-tax profits went into the plan and enabled many hourly workers to send their children to college and enjoy a comfortable retirement. True to his philosophy of “management last,” and unlike almost all CEOs, Mr. Ketner never gave himself a stock option which would have made him a billionaire.Mr. Ketner knew firsthand what he called, “the privilege of being underprivileged.” Born September 20, 1920 to the late George Robert Ketner (also a grocer) and Effie Yost Ketner, he lost his mother at age five and his father at age eleven. His stepmother, Allene Ketner, did the best she could during the depression, but young Ralph worked from an early age.Mr. Ketner sold newspapers, learned how to pluck chickens from his grandfather, split logs with a wedge and mallet, worked in brother Glenn’s “Ketner’s” supermarkets and “hopped curb” at Dan Nicholas Ice Cream Parlor. As recently as this May, he still delighted in easily reeling off the 14 flavors of ice cream he sold as a youngster. Having honed the skills in arithmetic he’d use the rest of his life, Mr. Ketner graduated from Boyden in 1937 and enrolled in Tri-State College in Angola, Indiana the college farthest from Salisbury that had sent him a catalog. He later served as its commencement speaker in 1982 where he was awarded an honorary doctorate. Mr. Ketner, by then well known for his colorful language, presented a speech entitled: “Four-Letter Words, the Keys to Success: Home Work, Hard Work, Team Work, Good Luck, Good Lord, and a Good Idea.” Out of money in 1939, he dropped out of college and returned home to work in his brother Glenn’s store in Kannapolis, and later worked for Cannon Mills as an auditor. He volunteered for the army after the attack on Pearl Harbor, serving in North Africa and Italy from 1942 to 1945. Upon his return from the war, Mr. Ketner did everything possible to stay out of the grocery business, working nine jobs he didn’t like before ultimately returning to work for Glenn. When Glenn sold his chain of 25 stores to Winn-Dixie in 1956, Ralph and brother Brown worked briefly for that chain before starting Food Town with former co-worker, Wilson Smith, in 1957. Upon his retirement from Food Lion, Mr. Ketner embarked on a second career of philanthropy that has been nearly unparalleled in this community, both in his personal contribution and in his engendering that spirit in others. Catawba College became a frequent recipient of Mr. Ketner’s giving. The Ketner School of Business opened at Catawba in 1989 and Mr. Ketner, executive in residence, established a third-floor office there where he provided services as “LPCINC” (the Lowest Paid Consultant in North Carolina), providing free consultation to anyone seeking his counsel. He especially loved talking with students about their ideas, and never missed an opportunity to meet with classes. In the early ’90s, Mr. Ketner offered the North Carolina County Association a deal that they couldn’t refuse: each year, he would give a $10,000 cash award to the employee who came up with the best idea of how to improve efficiency of operations in state government. Twenty-five years later, the NC County Association estimated that Mr. Ketner’s $250,000 investment had saved taxpayers more than $38,000,000.Other entities which Mr. Ketner faithfully supported include, but are by no means limited to: Rowan Helping Ministries, Livingstone College, the City of Salisbury, Nazareth Children’s Home, Trident Community Foundation, Charleston Interfaith Crisis Ministries, Queens University, New Horizons, 4-H, Happy’s Farm Inc. and Duke University. His list of awards and honors includes: National CEO Award (Wall Street Journal), USA Entrepreneur of the Year (Price Waterhouse), Who’s Who in Supermarketing, Who’s Who in Finance and Industry, Top Entrepreneurs in U.S. (Venture Magazine), Top Visionaries in the Supermarket Industry (Supermarket News), Lifetime Achievement and Entrepreneur of the Year (Ernst & Young and Merrill Lynch). He was the subject of numerous national magazine articles, among which were: “What’s an LFPINC?” (Forbes, Feb. 16, 1981); “Making Them Rich Down Home,” (Fortune, Aug. 15, 1988) and “You Can Make A Million” (Readers Digest, July 1996).A lifelong member of the First Presbyterian Church of Salisbury, he served as both deacon and elder over his 83-year membership. In 1989, he built 14 homes for low-income families, and did the same in 2002 for ten families in Rowan County. He was N.C. Grocer of the Year in 1972-73; N.C. Retailer of the Year in 1977; received an honorary degree from Catawba in 1981; was Salisbury’s Man of the Year in 1985; received the Adrian L. Shuford Award from Catawba in 1987; bought and renovated Salisbury’s seven-story downtown anchor building, then graciously donated it to the City. Mr. Ketner was an original inductee of the National 4-H Hall of Fame in 2002; and was an original inductee of the Entrepreneurs’ Hall of Fame at Queen’s University in 2011. That same year, he was inducted into the Supermarket News Hall of Fame. In 2015, Catawba and Food Lion produced the documentary “Lessons in Leadership: The Story of Food Lion Co-Founder Ralph W. Ketner.” That same year, he received the State of North Carolina’s top honor, “Order of the Long Leaf Pine,” for extraordinary service to the state. In the forward to his book, “Five Fast Pennies,” Mr. Ketner wrote:”Throughout my life, I faced an uncommon number of obstacles orphan, child of the depression, no money. But I was blessed with an ‘attitude,’ a point of view. I saw ‘problems’ as ‘opportunities in disguise.’ I saw a ‘lemon’ and made ‘lemonade.’ I started ‘thinking’ before ‘starting to work.’ I have never had ambitious goals for myself, but have always done my very best on every job.” To this, a grateful family and community say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”Survivors include: a daughter, Linda Ketner, of Charleston; a son, Robert (Leslie) Ketner of Greensboro; grandchildren Robert (Rebecca) Ketner Jr. of Winston-Salem, Andrew Ketner of New York City, Margaux Ketner of Philadelphia, and Madeline Ketner of Greensboro; sisters Virginia Petty of Greensboro and Dorothy Swing of Salisbury; his former wives, Ruth Hope (mother of his children) of Georgetown, SC and Anne Ketner of Salisbury; multiple nieces and nephews; and in-laws Wayne and Claudette Jones, and, Gary and Cathy Boggs all of Faith, NC.Along with his parents, he was preceded in death by his brothers, Glenn, Ray and Brown Ketner.The funeral will be held at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, June 5, 2016, at Keppel Auditorium, Catawba College, Salisbury, NC, Reverend James Dunkin of First Presbyterian officiating. A reception in the adjacent Crystal Lounge will follow. A private burial service will be held with immediate family. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to: Rowan Helping Ministries, 226 N. Long St., Salisbury, NC 28144; Hospice of Rowan County, 720 Grove St., Salisbury, NC 28144; Glenn A. Kiser Hospice House, 1229 Statesville Blvd., Salisbury, NC 28144.Summersett Funeral Home is serving the Ketner family. Online condolences may be made at www.summersettfuneralhome.com.     ”


10 responses to “Ralph Ketner obituary May 31, 2016, Founder of Food Lion, Out of money dropped out of college, Child of the depression no money but blessed with an attitude point of view, I saw problems as opportunities in disguise, Example for young people and management

  1. citizenwells

    “Out of money in 1939, he dropped out of college and returned home to work”

    He did not expect the govt or someone else to pay for his college, he went to work.

  2. He worked hard and did well. He didn’t take his good fortune for granted and gave back to the community. He is a good example,for the rest of the country.
    I am now going out to the grocery store. Our local store is the Food Lion and I am in Maryland.

  3. citizenwells

    “Trump Slams “Sleazy” Media Over Donations; “Stop Using Veterans As Political Pawns””

    “Following media machinations over his donations to Veterans, Donald Trump struck back today in a press conference, raging that the liberal media “should be ashamed,” and singling out ABC’s Tom Llamas as a “sleaze.” The Donald then turned the microphone over briefly to Al Baldasaro, a veteran from New Hampshire who skewered the news media, saying reporters should ”get your head out of your butt – focus on the real issues…stop using veterans as political pawns.””


  4. bob strauss

    I don’t think that’s the only thing he hid!


    Claim: Obama Hid ‘Gay Life’ to Become President

    Jerome R Corsi | WND

    A prominent member of Chicago’s homosexual community claims Barack Obama’s participation in the “gay” bar and bathhouse scene was so well known that many who were aware of his lifestyle were…



  5. bob strauss

    citizenwells | May 31, 2016 at 3:53 pm |

    “Trump Slams “Sleazy” Media Over Donations; “Stop Using Veterans As Political Pawns””


    I was rolling in the aisles over here in Reno.

    Nobody can call out those sleaze bags better than Trump, all he has to do is tell the truth! He leaves them speechless, and he cuts off their BS talking points!

  6. CW………..
    ………I can tell you from experience about people who grew up during the depression, and for the most part how they lived as well. Mr.Ketner was on earth 12 years ahead of myself. Many folks had NOTHING ,and to have SOMETHING required a hell of a lot of hard work. Nobody handed anything to others. My father began his business operation in 1931. he designed and built much of his equipment some of which was still in operation when he passed away in 1972. Interestingly Art Linkletter was also a depression kid. He was once asked how his family dealt with it. He told them “my family never knew there was a depression because we lived much of our lives as though there was one from day one. Living without, and doing without was the norm. In addition the depression was compounded by the drought conditions which had struck in many areas. Many farmers ended up walking away from their farms………many packed up and moved westward. Unfortunately the reason for the dust bowl was in part because of the methods being used in growing crops.
    I would agree with everything regarding the life of Mr.Ketner. While the depression caused untold devastation of American business, I think it also created a lot of OPPORTUNITY for those who used their gourds for something other than a HAT RACK. His CREATIVITY proves this point very well.

  7. bob strauss

    Judicial Watch
    50 mins ·

    Judicial Watch today released the deposition transcript of Cheryl D. Mills, Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff throughout her four years as secretary of state.

    Mills testimony covered Clinton’s use of emails; whether FOIA searches were done of Clinton emails, information about the set-up of the Clinton email server; Mills’ communication with Clinton email witness Bryan Pagliano; Mills’ involvement in prior Clinton email controversies; and the handling of politically sensitive FOIA responses.

    Mills’ attorneys directed her not to answer many questions.
    Clinton Email Update: Judicial Watch Releases Former Clinton Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills…
    (Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today released the deposition transcript of Cheryl D. Mills, Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff throughout her four years as…

  8. citizenwells

    “Appeals court refuses to rehear transgender restroom case”

    “The debate over whether transgender students should be able to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity is likely headed to the U.S. Supreme Court after a federal appeals court refused Tuesday to reconsider a three-judge panel’s ruling on the matter.”


  9. AND NOW……….
    ………….when he arrived at Anaheim for the rally he was advised that they didn’t have time for the National Anthem. The singer who was supposed to sing the Anthem was still in the crowd and Trump told the officials “YES WE DO HAVE TIME”, and called the singer up to the podium from which she done the anthem………..and the house ROARED their approval. Trump even sang along with her! HOW DOES THAT GRAB YOU?

  10. bob strauss

    Obama Dept of Justice files EMERGENCY motion…the reason is ASTOUNDING
    Written by Michelle Jesse, Associate Editor on May 31, 2016

    We shared with you a recently that one brave federal judge nailed Obama’s Department of (In)Justice for being “intentionally deceptive” to the court in the high-profile challenge to President Obama’s deportation amnesty by executive action. Judge Andrew S. Hanen ordered remedial ethics classes for all department lawyers at headquarters in Washington who practice in any of the 26 states that sued over the amnesty — “taught by at least one recognized ethics expert who is unaffiliated with the Justice Department.”

    The judge also ordered the Department of Homeland Security to turn over — by June 10th — identifying information for thousands of immigrants who entered the United States illegally and are now shielded from deportation under a government “deferred action” program. Note: we’re talking illegal immigrants here — people here illegally, in violating our nation’s rule of law.

    Today, as the Washington Times reports, the Dept of Justice filed an emergency motion to fight back against the judge’s orders. It accused him of exceeding his authority, which is rather rich coming from the administration who takes unilateral action with the president’s pen and phone — exactly what led to this whole situation in the first place.

    Moreover, it objected to the order to take ethics classes, using cost as a barrier. Really??? First of all, does anyone believe the Obama administration is suddenly fiscally responsible? Nah. But it holds absolutely zero water when you consider the remedial ethics classes are purported to cost $1 million — compared with the $113 billion (yes BILLION) illegal immigration is estimated to cost annually, according to a study by Federation for American Immigration Reform. (Of course, admittedly, perhaps it would be cheaper to just FIRE the DoJ lawyers and hire some who don’t need remedial ethics classes…)

    Meanwhile, the DoJ protested turning over the names of illegal immigrants the Obama administration is seemingly unlawfully shielding from deportation. Because privacy. Yep, the most transparent administration ever is concerned that turning over information about these illegal immigrants — under court seal, mind you — will violate the privacy and trust of these individuals who are breaking the law (and our trust) by being here.

    Turning over the information about those who received deferred action would “irrevocably breach the confidence of these individuals,” DOJ attorneys wrote in their motion for a stay of Judge Hanen’s order.

    Right, so the Obama administration is worried about breaching the confidence of the illegal aliens — to heck with the U.S. citizens it is in office to serve. Sounds about right.

    No word yet on response to the DoJ’s “emergency” motion today, but we will be keeping an eye on the situation.

    Isn’t it just grand to know how hard we have to fight to just get our “Justice” Department to honor the law?

    [Note: This article was written by Michelle Jesse, Associate Editor]


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