ELIZABETHTOWN — Benjamin Wayne Greene, 91, of Elizabethtown, passed away Sunday, May 31, 2015 after a brief illness.
Ben is survived by his beloved wife, Mary K. Greene of the home; cousins, Phillip, Hobby, Lee, and Casey Greene all of Elizabethtown and Rose Mary Hempel of St. Petersburg, FL.
Ben was born on Sept. 5, 1923, in Atlanta, GA, the only child of Cecil Wayne Greene and Forrest Gay Greene. Ben moved to North Carolina where his father, C.W. Greene, and uncle, A.H. Greene, started a number of businesses, including Dorris-Greene Motor Company in Charlotte, and Greene Pastures Farms and Greene Brothers Lumber Company in Bladen County.
Ben graduated from White Oak High School, and received his engineering degree from North Carolina State University. Ben was instrumental to the success of the timber operations of Greene Brothers Lumber Company, where by age 25 he had invented an automatic lumber stacker that performed the work of forty men, and was later featured in Time Magazine. Innovations like this timber stacker and the eight-mile private railway built through Colly Swamp allowed the huge cypress, gum, and poplar trees to be harvested that became the trademark of Greene Brothers Lumber Company. At one time, the lumber mill was the largest landowner in Bladen County, and it employed more than 1,100 people. Ben operated the mill until it closed in the late 1950s, but continued to manage the farming operations of the company until his death.
Ben was a very private man, but very accomplished in any field that captured his interest. Ben was a naval officer in World War II, where he served on a P.T. boat, was a recipient of the Purple Heart, and once accepted surrender of an island in the Pacific.
Ben was an avid sailplane glider pilot, and a top-ranked world-gliding competitor, representing the United States in at least three World Gliding Championships between 1972 and 1981, in Yugoslavia, Australia, and West Germany.
Ben was also an artist and a gifted amateur photographer. Ben and his wife, Mary, made their home at White Lake, and enjoyed traveling, sailing and swimming.
Greene was very civic-minded and participated in a number of pursuits dedicated to the growth and improvement of Elizabethtown and Bladen County, and most recently has been instrumental in the establishment of the Elizabethtown Industrial Park, where a street is named in his honor. Ben has been a life-long member of Trinity United Methodist Church.
A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, June 3, at Trinity United Methodist Church at 3 p.m. officiated by the Rev. Jay Winston.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Trinity United Methodist Church, PO Box 759, Elizabethtown, NC 28337.