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Carroll Edwards Passes Away: Industry Says Goodbye to a Leading Entrepreneur, Philanthropist and a Visionary Man
Carroll Edwards Remembered: Carroll Edwards, who built one of the leading pallet companies in the U.S., is remembered for his generosity and his friendly influence.
By Ed Brindley, publisher
Date Posted: 10/1/2008
Carroll Edwards, founder of Edwards Wood Products in Marshville, N.C. passed away suddenly on August 24, 2008 after a brief bout with leukemia. An overflow crowd of at least 800 people filled the auditorium at Wingate University, a tribute that all of us would love to receive when the time comes for us to see our God.
For those of us who were fortunate enough to know Carroll Edwards, he made a difference in our lives. He was truly a unique person with a heart as big as they come and a smile one will never forget.
What a beautiful service! There was an element of sadness because he will be missed by so many and everything happened so suddenly. But there was a heavy dose of joy and celebration over the life of a man who touched so many.
Founded in 1969, Carroll started Edwards Wood Products on two nailing tables in an abandoned hen house. He was driving a brick truck as a young man, but back problems made him seek another way of supporting his family. A garbage collector told him that if he kept on working hard he could be successful and amount to more than the trash collector had. Carroll decided to take a chance on the American dream.
Today his company is one of the largest pallet companies in the country, a major supplier of wood chips to the paper industry, an established hardwood sawmill, and a cattle rancher. The company manufactures about 100,000 pallets a week and employs approximately 400 people. The people at Edwards have always been innovative and successful at getting machinery to perform.
Carroll’s story is an excellent example of American ingenuity and entrepreneurial drive. Yet his life went way beyond building a strong business.
One of the things that struck me so much at the funeral service was the wide variety of people who attended. Very successful businessmen and community leaders, members of the rescue squad and fire department, Edwards Wood Products employees, industry friends, church members…The list goes on and on.
The three people who were fortunate enough to speak about Carroll’s life at the memorial service had a common theme running throughout their comments. Carroll never met a stranger and would literally give you the shirt off his back. Everybody liked Carroll. He always had a moment to stop and talk. Our lives were enriched by his touch. Our condolences go out to Elona, his wife and backbone behind him, the rest of the Edwards family, the entire team at Edwards Wood Products, and the people of Marshville and Union County. He gave more than we will ever know.
Remember the shirt off his back? One of our staff, Jeff McBee, remembers the day Carroll and Jeff Edwards came by our booth at the Richmond Show. Our Jeff admired the company jacket Jeff Edwards was wearing. Without hesitating, Carroll started taking off his own jacket. It was not until he had gotten his jacket off to give it to Jeff that he realized that he had failed to wear his company jacket that day. If Jeff Edward’s jacket had not been too small to fit Jeff McBee, Carroll would probably have told his son to give it up. That’s just the kind of guy that Carroll was.
One of the speakers said, “I was shocked when I heard that Carroll had passed! But if you know Carroll, you know that he never passed. Carroll never passed on anything in life. He never passed a stranger. When they needed a new fire truck for the fire department, Carroll didn’t pass, he bought it. They needed a cancer wing for the hospital. Now it bears the name of Carroll and Elona Edwards. He has given more money to others than most people would ever hope to make in their life time. The man didn’t pass.”
I agree that Carroll’s generosity is what I experienced in his mannerisms over many years. Ingram Walters stated, “The manner in which he gave was more important than what he gave.” Why? Because the manner in which he gave determined its impact on peoples’ lives.
There were many humorous times during the service. Carroll would have liked that too. Ingram said, “There are three things that I know about Carroll, some of them may not be well known to others. First, he didn’t want you to mess with his hair. He would often back out a door to keep the wind from moving his hair. Second, he did not like for anybody to misspell his name – two r’s and two l’s. Third, he loved wood. Other people love to play golf, or love the Carolina Tar heels, or something of that sort. But Carroll loved wood. I knew before coming into this hall what his casket would be made from.”
Actively involved in the community, Carroll served on numerous boards and generously donated to many worthwhile causes. He allocated a portion of his financial resources to invest in medical devices that will improve the standard and quality of care for thousands of patients worldwide. Carroll was a lifelong member of Union Grove Baptist Church in Marshville, N.C. Born in 1937, Carroll committed his life to Christ as a teenager.
Carroll is survived by his wife of 51 years, Elona Laisure Edwards; his children, Lisa E. Ammons and husband, Rick, Jeff Edwards and wife Teresa, and Tina Edwards; four grandchildren, Jeffrey Edwards, Krystle Edwards, Jonathan Nance, and Blake Ammons; one great-granddaughter, Kamryn Nance; and one sister, Linda Lois Edwards.
This funeral will go down in my experiences as one of the most memorable of my life. It was a tribute to a man who touched others more than we will ever know. He was a friend to me and countless others. He loved and was loved back. It was easy to love and appreciate him.
I have been fortunate enough to visit the Edwards family and their outstanding industry locations on a number of occasions. I remember the day that Desert Storm began. I was in Marshville and also visited their impressive new facility in Laurenburg. What an expansion! The two plant locations received over 150 truck loads of logs a day.
Actively involved in community activities, Carroll served on the Board of Directors of Beaver Lane Fire and Rescue Dept., Union County Chamber of Commerce, National Wooden Pallet and Container Association, ARC of Union County, Bank of America and American Community Bank. He was a member of the NC Board of Transportation and a Trustee of Wingate University. Carroll supported many worthy organizations and has touched the lives of many people through contributions to the ARC of Union County, Beaver Lane Fire and Rescue, the Lois Morgan Edwards Memorial Library, Hospice of Union County, the Literacy Council of Union County, Turning Point, United Way, Healthquest, UDI, and the Boy Scouts.
Memorials may be made to ARC of Union County, 1653-C Campus Park Dr., Monroe, NC 28112 or Union Grove Baptist Church, 2434 Old Lawyers Rd., Marshville, NC 28103. Online condolences may be made at www.gordonfuneralservice.com.
“Carroll Edwards was one of the most perceptive individuals that I ever met in my life. He was the first to know if a deal made sense. Edwards Wood Products grew from a tiny operation to one of the largest in the country.”
— Bill Carden of Potomac Supply Corp., Kinsale, Va.
“The pallet industry has surely lost an industry trailblazer. One who was never lost for words of wit. I listened to his jokes for many years and some many times repeated, but each time they always added a bit of humor to whatever we were doing. I will never find a better friend. I will forever cherish our many times together.”
— Steve Sykes, former president of Interstate Pallet and pallet recycling pioneer