ELIZABETHTOWN, NC (WECT) - Among the notable deaths in North Carolina last year were three of the Tarheel State's best-known figures, Actor Andy Griffith, folk musician Doc Watson and University of North Carolina President William Friday.
And while he may have not been known state wide, the December death of a Bladen County businessman has left a void in the town he lived and served for much of his life.
There has never been a person who loved the town of Elizabethtown more than Wallace Leinwand, who lived there for 72 years, until his death on December 6, at the age of 88.
And while he is no longer with us, Leinwand left his mark on this Bladen County town.
"If there was anyone who personifies the spirit of Elizabethtown, it was Wallace Leinwand," said Elizabethtown's Mayor, Sylvia Campbell. "I have often said if there was a Mister Elizabethtown, it would have been Wallace Leinwand."
In the peak of the Great Depression, Leinwand's family moved Elizabethtown and opened a general store. He took over the store from his father in 1947.
And as the store grew, he ventured into politics, first as the town's Mayor Pro-Tem and then later serving for many years as the Mayor of Elizabethtown. He was also involved in many of the town's civic organizations.
Wallace Leinwand also loved baseball and other athletics. He was a founding organizer of the town's Little League Baseball Program and the ballpark in Elizabethtown is named after him.
Over 20 years ago, he first started working on downtown revitalization. It took years to get his dream into becoming reality, but a multi-million dollar revitalization project of downtown Elizabethtown was just completed. Sadly, in the last few years, his health was failing, and Leinwand never got to the chance to see the final product.
"He was not able to see it finished, but I think he would be real proud of it," said Ricky Leinwand, the son of Wallace Leinwand and an Elizabethtown Town Councilman.
Leinwand's family store is now a landmark in Elizabethtown, at 77 years in operation and still counting.
The town's biggest cheerleader may be gone, but his spirit and determination continues to thrive.
"He not only thought of himself, he also thought about all of the rest of the merchants, he was always on board to do whatever was best for Elizabethtown" said Mayor Campbell.
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