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Ray Cantrell, who led Chamber and industrial growth, dies at age 84

Glenn Ray Cantrell, who was instrumental in the growth of the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce over many years and helped recruit numerous industrial plants to the county, died Saturday at the Life Care Center after a period of declining health. He was 84.


Cantrell, who went by Ray, was born in Reidsville to John Glenn and Lucy Talley Cantrell. After service in the Army, he was named manager of the Chamber of Commerce in the small town of Ahoskie in northeastern North Carolina. In 1960, he joined the Greater Hendersonville Chamber of Commerce, where he was the Executive Vice President until his retirement in 2000.

When he joined the Chamber, there were three industries and had no industrial parks. The Chamber's annual budget of $20,000 was supported by 210 members. Under his leadership, he helped to recruit more than 40 industries, including Steelcase, Eaton Corp., Ralph Wilson Plastics and Rockwell International. He was instrumental in the revitalization of downtown Hendersonville, joining a small but influential group of business leaders who promoted the then-controversial idea of a serpentine Main Street that slowed traffic and created more parking spaces. Upon his retirement, the Chamber established the G. Ray Cantrell Service Award to recognize an individual for extraordinary service to the community.

RayCantrellG. Ray CantrellHe loved his community and worked tirelessly to maintain a balanced growth in Henderson County – balance between industry, agriculture, tourism and retirees. He had a passion for education, serving on the Hendersonville City School Board for several years. Cantrell was past president of both the NC Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives and the NC Industrial Developers Association and past board member for Advantage West, the regional industry recruiting organization. In 1978, Gov. Jim Hunt appointed him to the NC Human Resources and Development Board. He served as Executive Secretary of the NC Apple Festival for most of the 40 years he worked for the Chamber. He was a member of Kedron Lodge #387 AF&AM. He was a recipient of the Service to Mankind Award and was a past recipient of the "Possum of the Year Award" from the Possum Hollow Club. He was a founding member of the Four Seasons Golf Club. He was also a very active member of First United Methodist Church of Hendersonville and the Roy Johnson Sunday School class before his health declined.

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his first wife, Libby Smith Cantrell, and a sister, Virginia Cantrell Citty. He is survived by his wife, Priscilla Cantrell, a son, John Cantrell, of Kingsport, Tenn., and wife, Cindy; a stepson, Tony Hartle, and wife, Linda, of Mocksville; and grandchildren Nicholas and Peyton Cantrell, both of Kingsport.

Memorial services will be 11 a.m. Wednesday, May 21, at First United Methodist Church with the Rev. Dan Martin officiating. Masonic Rites will be conducted by Kedron Lodge #387 Ancient Free & Accepted Masons. The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 20, at Thos. Shepherd & Son. The family will receive friends at The Inn on Church on Tuesday, May 20.

The family wishes to thank the staff at The Life Care Center of Hendersonville and Dr. James J. Caserio and his staff for the compassionate care they provided.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials be made to the Boys and Girls Club of Hendersonville, PO Box 1460, Hendersonville, NC, 28793, or the Hendersonville Rescue Mission, 639 Maple St., Hendersonville, NC, 28792.

An online register book is available for family and friends by visiting Thos. Shepherd & Son Funeral Directors and Cremation Memorial Center is in charge of arrangements.