Leigh Fibers Chairman Philip Lehner dies

Philip Lehner naval intelligence officer world war II

Lehner was an officer in U.S. Naval Intelligence during World War II.

Philip Lehner, chairman and chief executive officer of industry supplier Leigh Fibers, died Jan. 5 at his home in Hingham, Mass. He was 88.

Lehner spent 65 years with the Spartanburg, S.C.-based textile and textile byproduct reprocessor founded by his father Hans. Under his leadership, the company grew to be one of the largest of its kind in the United States. He also pursued other business interests, including sustainable coffee, sugar cane and vegetable oil production in Latin America.

Lehner’s son Carl, who succeeded him as president of Leigh Fibers in 1990, told the Boston Globe his father grew the company by giving “people freedom to do the best possible job. He set high expectations, and he led by example in terms of working hard and focusing on what was important.”

Lehner had a talent for languages—including German and Japanese, which he put to good use during World War II as a member of the Office of Naval Intelligence. By the age of 20, he had achieved the rank of lieutenant. After the war, he completed a bachelor of science degree in economics at Harvard and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.

He was a philanthropist who contributed to environmental and educational causes and established funds at Harvard University, Smith College, and Buckingham Browne & Nichols day school.

Survivors include his wife of 63 years Monique; daughters Brigitte Kingsbury and Christine; sons Carl, Michael and Peter; a brother; 15 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

The family has requested that memorial contributions be made to The Trustees of Reservations, 572 Essex St., Beverly, MA 01915.

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