Tuesday, January 8, 2013

R.I.P. Philip Lehner

This is the notice that appeared in today's New York Times. What it doesn't say is how remarkable his death was, surrounded by his wife, a grandson and all five children, singing hymns and reciting poetry, Yeats, Kinnell, and Robert Service, specifically. (Though there was some concern that the off-key singing hastened his end.) We had brought him home from the hospital a week earlier to start with hospice care, and many friends and relatives were able to visit him at home and say good-bye. Saturday afternoon his closest friends from Central America, Alfonso and Carlos, arrived and visited with him - though by then be was not responsive. Still, his impressive eyebrows twitched until the last.

LEHNER--Philip, born October 24, 1924 of Hingham, MA, died peacefully at home on January 5, 2013, surrounded by family. The son of Hans Lehner, from Germany, and Germaine L'Eveque, from France, Philip was born in Boston. He entered Harvard College in 1941. During sophomore year, he was selected into the Navy Intelligence Service. After one year learning Japanese in a Navy intensive language program, he was stationed in Hawaii translating intercepted Japanese messages. Philip quickly was promoted to Lieutenant (jg), one of the youngest naval officers in WWII. At the battle of Okinawa, he interrogated Japanese prisoners. He assisted Admiral Jerauld Wright as a translator at the surrender of the Japanese naval forces in Korea, and joined an intelligence team to determine the Japanese military capacity. He returned to Harvard and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1948. He joined Leigh Textile Company, a family fiber recycling business based in Boston. Philip and his family members built Leigh Fibers into the largest textile and fiber reprocessing and recycling company in the United States. Leigh opened an office in Montreal and eventually became the largest textile waste company in Canada. On round-the-world voyages trading textile waste, Philip's facility with languages - German, French, and Spanish as well as Japanese - allowed him to form close relations around the globe. In the early 1960's Philip partnered with two other families from Central America, to establish Grasas y Aceites, S.A., which grew to be the largest vegetable oil mill in Nicaragua. Philip bought Cafetalera Aquiares, a coffee farm in Costa Rica that has become a model for ecologically sound management. Philip led his partners to invest in Ingenio Taboga, helping to build it into the largest and most sustainably managed sugar cane operation in Costa Rica. Philip loved sailing in Hingham Harbor and in Maine, passing on that love to all his children.
Philip established funds at Harvard, Smith, MIT, Brown & Nichols, and Milton Academy, and supported environmental and childhood education programs. Philip is survived by Monique Brancart Lehner, his wife of 61 years, his brother Pete of Hingham, MA, five children - Christine (Chucker) of Hastings-on-Hudson, NY; Carl (Sandra) of Holderness, NH; Michael (Monica) of Boston, MA; Peter (Fritz) of New York, NY; and Brigitte Kingsbury (Hal) of Cape Elizabeth, ME, 15 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. Donations in Philip's memory may be made to: The Trustees of Reservations, 572 Essex Street, Beverly, Massachusetts 01915;

There will be a funeral service at St Paul's Church in Hingham, Massachusetts this Thursday, January 10th, at 11 a.m.

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