SHELBY - Shelby has lost one of its community leaders and proudest citizens with the passing of Gene Le Grand.
Mr. Le Grand died peacefully on Dec. 16, 2013, aged 91.
Homer Eugene Le Grand was born in Shelby on Feb. 8, 1922, to Lillian Fain Le Grand and Richard Torrance Le Grand. One of six children, Gene was educated in Shelby public schools and graduated from Darlington School in Rome, Ga.
He graduated from N.C. State University with a bachelor of engineering, Kappa Alpha honors and ongoing loyalty to the Wolfpack basketball team.
While studying at N.C. State, Gene joined the U.S. Army
Infantry. Upon graduation, he completed officer training school at Fort Benning, Ga. He served in the Occupation Army in Japan from 1945 to 1946 and was discharged as a captain, returning home to his wife and infant son.
Gene devoted his working life to the textile industry. Upon returning from the war, he joined his father and brothers Dick (Richard) and Bill (William) at the Shelby Mill. At the age of 37, he left the family business for Fiber Industries Inc., where he started work as a trainee and retired 23 years later as manager of the Salisbury Plant.
Retirement saw a return to Shelby – and full-time work. Gene resumed his role as President of P&M Warehouse, a family business, and became a leading advocate for Shelby's historic and commercial revival. He served on the Cleveland County Board of Commissioners, as president of the Kiwanis Club of Shelby, chairman of the Cleveland Memorial Hospital, Deacon of the Shelby Presbyterian Church, where he was a lifetime member, and board member of the Cleveland Community Technical College.
Gene also had a long affiliation with the scouts. An eagle scout and recipient of one of scouting's highest honors, a Silver Beaver Award, he served as president of the Piedmont Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
Gene was proud to see the realization of the Le Grand Center, a modern education facility and conference center that enshrines his lifelong commitment to education, training and commerce. Shortly before he died, he made one last trip to the North Carolina beach where he spent many summers fishing, swimming and enjoying his family.
In 1943 Gene married Emma Jo Beam of Shelby, a teacher who shared his passion for education. They were blessed with four children: Homer Eugene Le Grand, Jr. and his wife Brenda Lefler Le Grand of Melbourne, Australia, Bryan Fain Le Grand and his wife Brendan Camp Le Grand of Lattimore, Anne Bryce Le Grand of Seattle, Wash., and Beth (Elisabeth) Josephine Le Grand Tull and her husband Rhesa Read Tull, Jr. of Waxhaw.
Gene is survived by six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren: Anne Christine Le Grand, her husband Jonathan Daniel Lehman and their sons Benton, Oliver and Andrew, Chip (Homer Eugene) Le Grand V, his wife Nicole Maria Cecile Le Grand and their children Max, Amelie and Jasper, Alexander Benton Le Grand, his wife Laurie Ann Lyon Le Grand and their daughters Annabelle and Julieanne, Rhesa Read Tull III and Spencer Torrance Tull, and Drit (David Whitman) Shoemaker III and his daughter Scarlet.
In 1991 Gene married Marceline Lee Humphries of Shelby, who died in 2002. He is survived by his brother William Fain Le Grand; and his very special friend Bea Justis. He leaves many wonderful nieces, nephews, grand nieces and grand nephews – all of whom were loved by Gene.
The entire family would like to express their gratitude and heartfelt thanks to all the carers and staff at Sterling House, Shelby, who helped Gene near the end of his life. Special appreciation is extended to the loving and professional care Gene received from Jennifer Oaks, Robbey Mobley and Christine Oglesby. They became extended members of the family.
Celebration of life service: The family will receive friends from 5 to 7 p.m. Jan. 10 at the Le Grand Conference Center (Cleveland Community College Campus).
Memorial service: 11 a.m. Jan. 11, 2014, at the Shelby Presbyterian Church, with a reception following in the Fellowship Hall
Funeral home: Cecil M. Burton Funeral Home and Crematory is serving the family
Memorials: In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to: Cleveland Community College Foundation for the Le Grand Center, 1800 E Marion St, Shelby, NC 28151; United Way of Cleveland County, PO Box 2242, Shelby, NC 28151; Shelby Public Library, 104 Howie Drive, Shelby, NC 28151; Boy Scouts of America, Piedmont Council, PO Box 1059, Gastonia, NC 28053
Online guest registry: www.cecilmburtonfuneralhome.com