10-8-2021 – Community mourns, remembers furniture mogul

Posted on: October 8th, 2021 by admin

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October 8, 2021

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LENOIR

 

Driving along the streets of Caldwell County, one can easily spot the Broyhill name spelled out across the community’s most treasured parks, charities, and resource centers — the latest being Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute’s Paul H. Broyhill Center for Advanced Technologies.

 

Paul Hunt Broyhill grew the company his father and uncle started into one of the largest furniture companies in the world, but locally he was best known for his treatment of employees and contributions to the community.

 

Broyhill, 97, past chairman of Broyhill Furniture Industries, passed away Tuesday night after a period of declining health.

 

Broyhill was the son of J.E. Broyhill, who, with his brother T.H. Broyhill, started what became Broyhill Furniture. At its peak in the 1970s, under Paul Broyhill’s leadership, the company had 20 factories and employed about 7,500 people.

 

Rick Coffey, who used to work for Paul Broyhill as the youngest plant manager within the company, said his relationship with Broyhill has been one of his greatest honors.

 

“Paul considered me one of ‘his boys,’ ” he said.

 

Coffey keeps a picture behind his desk of himself, Broyhill, Wes Collins, and Bob McCreary — all furniture industry legends from when he gave them a tour of McCreary’s operations.

 

“It was an honor to be able to let him know what a positive influence my years at Broyhill had on my career,” he said.

 

Coffey, who is now the president and chief operating officer of McCreary Modern, said the company’s procedures mirror a lot of what Coffey learned under the mentorship of Broyhill.

 

“He will be sorely missed,” he said.

 

On Wednesday, Exela Pharma Sciences lowered the company’s flag to half-staff in remembrance of Broyhill.

 

Exela is a fast growing, specialty pharmaceutical company located in Lenoir, with corporate headquarters located in a building built by Broyhill.

 

Broyhill attended the ribbon cutting that celebrated Exela moving into his former building, and expressed his support for ushering in a new industry to Caldwell’s economy.

 

Deborah Murray, executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission, said she admired Broyhill and felt privileged to know him and see firsthand what a profound impact he had.

 

“So many state and federal officials that come through this area always know who he is, and they always sought out his advice and support.” she said. “He was a great man and one of the most generous.”

 

Many who knew Broyhill describe him as a visionary, but few realized it as tangibly as Steve Pond, the founding publisher of Furniture Today, a publication dedicated to the furniture industry. Pond went to see Broyhill in Lenoir in 1976 to talk about Pond’s idea for starting Furniture Today. Pond, who had yet to quit his job to even begin work to begin the publication, was blown away by Broyhill’s response.

 

“Paul immediately grasped the idea.” Broyhill told Pond the industry needed it and offered on the spot to buy subscriptions for all 2,000 of his company’s customers, Pond said. “I got handed a check for $12,000 for an idea.”

 

Jerry Church, town manager of Granite Falls, is yet another individual greatly impacted by Broyhill.

 

“My first job at Broyhill was in 1973, when I worked second shift at the Plant No. 55 Central Fabric facility in Whitnel. I was a junior in high school,” he said. “After high school, I started working at the Lenoir Chair No.3 upholstery facility in Whitnel where I, and many others, discovered that I was the worst upholsterer in the history of the company.”

 

Church said it was during these years that he met Broyhill for the first time.

 

“My first day at the Broyhill Office, I had lunch in the cafeteria and was sitting at a table by myself when someone asked if they could join me. It was Mr. Broyhill,” he said.” I knew who he was so I said, ‘sure Mr. Broyhill’ to which he responded ‘it’s Paul.’

 

Church said it didn’t take him long to realize Broyhill knew much more about him than he knew about Broyhill.

 

“Eventually he stated, ‘Wasn’t your sister a Broyhill Scholar?’ he knew she was, and then followed up by stating that he didn’t remember me as being a Broyhill Scholar.”

 

“I replied that I would have been one, if the requirements didn’t consider good high school grades in order to get the college scholarship,” Church said. “The last time I saw Mr. Broyhill in person he ‘ribbed’ me by asking how it felt to be the second smartest kid in a two-kid family.”

 

Church said his lunch-time story is just one example of how Broyhill connected with Broyhill employees.

 

“He was a true gentleman and loved his ‘work family’ deeply. He sent me notes and called me whenever I was promoted throughout my 28 career with Broyhill,” Church said.

 

“Mr. Broyhill can be referred to in many different terms; innovator, benefactor, successful businessman, mentor, family man, gentleman, visionary, etc.,” he said. “I am thankful that I can call him friend. There are many other former employees of the company that enjoy that same privilege. He will be missed by many. Rest in peace Mr. Broyhill.”

 

The executive director of the Broyhill Family Foundation, and Broyhill’s personal assistant of 20 years, Sheila Triplett-Brady, said, “from an insider’s view, the man was just as great as he was perceived to be.”

 

“Together we wrote his memoir and I listened to his stories of the past. He loved to sing, ‘Those Were the Days, My Friend; We Thought They’d Never End,’ but he was not stuck in the past,” she said. “Until the end of his life he remained vital and engaged. His mind was sharp, his humor intact, and his generosity incredible—especially in his beloved Lenoir and the surrounding area,” she said.

 

“His generosity had such breadth, depth, and scope, that his mark will remain indelible,” she continued.

 

Guy Lucas of The High Point Enterprise contributed to this story.

Reporter Candice Simmons can be reached at (828)610-8721

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