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Philip Lehner

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Philip Lehner Obituary
Philip Lehner died peacefully in his life-long home in Hingham, Massachusetts on January 5, 2013, surrounded by his family. He was 88. The cause was congestive heart failure. The younger son of Hans Lehner, from Fischach, Germany, and Germaine LEveque Lehner, from Honfleur, France, Philip was born in 1924 in Boston, MA. After attending Brown & Nichols School in Cambridge, he started Harvard in the fall of 1941. During his sophomore year, he was selected into the Navy Intelligence Service. He spent a year learning Japanese in a highly selective and terrifically hard Navy intensive language program at the University of Colorado. The Navy noted at the time that the significance of this new approach to foreign language [training] cannot be over emphasized as it is essential today to know our enemies knowing their language. He was then stationed in Hawaii translating intercepted Japanese messages and analyzing troop ship movements. Eleven days after he turned 20, Philip was promoted to Lieutenant (jg), one of the (and we believe at the time, the) youngest naval officers in WWII. While stationed at Pearl Harbor, he received the Hingham Journal and wrote to his father how much he enjoyed reading news of his home town. Town citizens created a fund to send the Journal to all the towns serving soldiers and sailors. In 1945 he deployed on the USS Ancon, an ocean liner built in Quincy, MA acquired by the US Navy and converted into a combined headquarters and communications command ship. He participated in the battle of Okinawa, the biggest island battle of the Pacific, interrogating Japanese prisoners. He served also on the USS Enterprise and the USS San Francisco and assisted Admiral Jerauld Wright as a translator at the surrender of the Japanese naval forces in Korea. After the Surrender, he joined an intelligence team trying to determine the extent of the Japanese military capacity and traveled throughout Japan. Following the war, he returned to Harvard from which he graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1948. He then joined his father in the family business, Leigh Textile Company, a fiber recycling business based in Boston that his father had bought out of bankruptcy in 1922, with a loan from the First National Bank of Boston, to which the family remained ever loyal . In 1948, returning with his father from one of their trips to Europe trading textile waste, he met a young Belgian lady, Monique Brancart, who was traveling with her family from Cairo to the US to attend Smith College. After a three year courtship, Philip and Monique were married in 1951, in Hingham MA at St. Pauls Church. The couple moved into Philips childhood home upon the death of Philips father in 1965 and have lived there since. Over the next decades, Philip, his father and his brother Peter, and later their sons built the company, renamed Leigh Fibers, into the largest textile and fiber reprocessing and recycling company in the United States. Leigh buys natural and synthetic fiber waste, cloth cuttings, used clothing, and other process waste from textile, fiber, carpet, and clothing mills, much of which would otherwise be sent to landfills. The company then cleans, processes and mixes the waste to produce fiber material for a range of industrial uses. Customers use Leigh Fibers material to produce automotive carpet and acoustical padding, mattresses, carpet underlay pads, hygienic and medical pads, paper currency, and other industrial non-woven products. In 1948, they hired former Boston Bruins hockey player Ray Getliffe to open an office in Montreal and it eventually became the largest textile waste company in Canada. Originally based in Boston due to textile mills in Lowell, Fall River, and New Bedford, Massachusetts, the business moved the center of its manufacturing operations to Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1961. Philips son Carl became President of Leigh Fibers in 1990; Philip continued as Chairman until very recently. Philips son Michael and niece Heidi, both of Boston, and nephews Mark and Paul, both of Spartanburg, still work in the company. Leigh traded textile waste around the world and Philip often took round-the-world voyages. His facility with languages | he was comfortable in German, French, and Spanish as well as Japanese | allowed him to form close relations with many traders in other countries. He often invited them to visit his family in Hingham, and his home frequently had visitors from around the globe with whom he loved to talk world affairs and business. His wife, an architectural historian who prepared architectural surveys of the historical districts in towns around Boston, led these foreign visitors on architectural and history tours of Boston. In the early 1960s Philip saw an opportunity for a new line of business in Central America where he was trading cotton waste. With two other families from the region, Philip started Grasas y Aceites, S.A., which became the largest vegetable oil mill in Nicaragua. When the cotton harvest decreased, the plant pioneered processing peanut and soy beans. Under Philip s leadership and due to the integrity of its business operations, careful independence, and civic generosity, Gracsa and four related businesses Philip started, survived the Somoza dictatorship, remained in business during the 11 years of the Sandinista rule, and continued until the early 2000s when the families sold to local farmers. In the mid-1970s, Philip also expanded and led his group to buy Cafetalera Aquiares, a coffee farm in Costa Rica that has become a model for ecologically sound management. They also bought half of Ingenio Taboga, which has been built into the largest and most sustainably managed sugar farm and mill, distillery, and co-generation facility in Costa Rica. Philip had a life-long love of sailing. In his childhood, he sailed on the Massachusetts coast with his father and brother. With his children and brother, he often sailed in Hingham Harbor and in Maine, passing on that love to all his children who remain active sailors. Philip established funds at Harvard, Smith, MIT, Brown & Nichols, and Milton Academy, among other philanthropic activities, particularly for environmental and childhood education programs. Philip is survived by Monique Lehner, his wife of 61 years, his brother Pete also of Hingham, MA, five children | Christine Lehner (Chucker) of Hastings-on-Hudson, NY; Carl Lehner (Sandra) of Holderness, NH; Michael Lehner (Monica) of Boston, MA; Peter Lehner (Fritz) of New York, NY; and Brigitte Lehner Kingsbury (Hal) of Cape Elizabeth, ME. He is also survived by 15 grandchildren | Reine Wing Hewitt, Tristram Jeffrey Richardson Hewitt, Myric Hans Lehner, Jessica Michelle Lehner, Walter William Lehner, Erica Helen Lehner, Caleb Philip Lehner, Peter Kim Lehner, Christian Michael Lehner, Madeleine Monique Lehner, Nadine Ruth Lehner, Eliza Ann Lehner, Marina Christina Lehner, Matthew Philip Kingsbury, and Dylan Robert Kingsbury -- and two great grandchildren Lede Germaine Graeber and Ignatius Schein Richardson Brownstein. Friends are invited to the funeral service at 11 am on Thursday, January 10, 2013 at St. Paul's Church, 147 North Street, Hingham, MA. In lieu of flowers, donations in Philip's memory may be made for the support of Worlds End in Hingham to: The Trustees of Reservations, 572 Essex Street, Beverly, MA 01915 or on line at www.thrtrustees.org.

Published in The Hingham Journal from Jan. 8 to Jan. 15, 2013
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