Lake Norman & Mooresville

Town honors humble long-time volunteer

Some retirees might be content to play a round of golf, visit their grandchildren, maybe do a little traveling.

Ralph Quackenbush is not one of them.

The 77-year-old Davidson resident was honored last month with the town's annual Jack Burney Community Service Award in recognition of his superior commitment to the community.

The award, named for G. Jackson Burney in honor of his commitment to serving Davidson, has been awarded since 2004 in his memory. Quackenbush was nominated by Marcia Webster and Nancy Waldrop of the Davidson Housing Coalition.

Quackenbush and his wife, Carol, moved to the area from New Jersey more than 50 years ago, originally settling in Cornelius, where Ralph worked at a textile mill on what is now the site of the Food Lion at the corner of N.C. 115 and Catawba Avenue.

About 10 years later, he moved his family - now including daughter Lynn and son David - to Pinecrest Street in Davidson, where he lives today.

When the mill closed in 1961, Quackenbush opened the Tastee Freeze in Cornelius, and a year later he took over the Hub on Main Street in Davidson. He slung burgers and milkshakes until 1976, when he taught himself how to cane a chair by reading the Boy Scout handbook. That led to The Workbench, a shop he opened on Main Street, refinishing and building furniture. Quackenbush also taught furniture restoration at Central Piedmont Community College from 1976-1989.

Through the years, he realized how special the town of Davidson was. "It's just a friendly place that is still trying to maintain its small-town flavor. And it's a town that wants to do things for it's people," Quackenbush said.

Quackenbush used his 1996 "retirement" to try some new things by volunteering. "I can't be a couch potato," he said. "I wanted to volunteer for something I'd never done before."

He has served as a greeter, usher and deacon at Davidson College Presbyterian Church, acted as the first president of the Davidson Community Players, and still acts as the treasurer of the Davidson Housing Coalition and as a volunteer parking officer for the Davidson Police Department.

He certainly wasn't looking for any attention; like many who preceded him, Quackenbush is humble - and slightly embarrassed - by the fuss.

"I didn't do these things for attention, I did them to do some good," he said.

Yet those around him feel that he is incredibly deserving of the award. Mayor Pro Tem Margo Williams, who delivered Quackenbush's citation, ended with these words about him:

"You call yourself just a plain person who likes to work with his hands, but we know that you have lived with honesty, creativity, intelligence, trustworthiness and love. These simple virtues are easy to say but hard to accomplish.

And accomplish them you have, Ralph. Your town is grateful.

Thank you."