Lanier, Hincks picked for honors
The two people chosen by the Lee County Community Foundation (LCCF) as the group’s Man and Woman of the Year have a lot in common beyond a general dedication to improving the area.
Both Ted Lanier and Helen Hincks are the youngest child from a large family, born in the rural South at the tail end of the Great Depression. Both came into wealth despite humble upbringings, using their time and money to give back to charities and civic groups in Lee County since the mid 1980s. They also live half a mile from one another.
And both say that despite having spent about eight decades on this Earth, they still feel up for a challenge.
“I’ll turn 80 years old in August,” Lanier said. “So I’ve still got some fire and brimstone in me, as the preachers say.”
And Hincks said that after having had to cut back on her responsibilities in the last year, she wants to get back to many of the groups she has worked with — especially ones with a focus on downtown. She has served on the board of directors of the Railroad House Historical Association, Temple Theatre and Downtown Sanford Inc., among others.
“This last year, I got sick, and that made me stop some things,” said Hincks, 82. “But I’m getting back to it. ... I feel younger than I have in years.”
Hincks is the wife of Herb Hincks, former chairman of the Lee County Board of Commissioners. They both were born in Kentucky and settled in Sanford in 1987, after his Navy career was over. They have four children; Thomas, a Sanford dentist, is the only one still in the area.
Lanier, a former banking executive, was born in Edgecombe County. He moved to Sanford to work with The Carolina Bank in 1971. He was president and CEO in 1984 when the bank merged with BB&T, after which he began focusing more on civic groups and charities.
He said he’s glad he didn’t let his career consume him, and that volunteering came easily anyway. Lanier credited his parents, saying that growing up in a farming community, he and brothers would be sent off to work a neighbor’s field if someone got sick, whether they could pay for the labor or not.
But he was no good at picking cotton, he said, so he went to college to study economics after a stint in the Army. Lanier and his wife of 52 years, Peggy, have two children who live in the Triangle area.
A third child died as a teenager, which Lanier said is the only thing in his life that he isn’t thankful for.
Hincks, likewise, lives her life with a positive outlook. Her husband said the only people he’s ever heard her say anything negative about in 60 years of marriage were Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. She said it just doesn’t make sense to get caught up in negativity.
“I’ve always thought it was better to be relaxed,” she said. “If someone has a better idea than you, that’s OK.”
One thing she’s not overly enthused about, however, is the present state of Sanford — especially downtown, where she used to walk regularly and water the potted plants and flowers when she wasn’t in a board meeting for one group or another.
“Sanford has grown so much that it feels like an entirely different town than when we first moved here,” Hincks said. “I suppose that was a good thing, but I liked it how it used to be.”
She was an organizer of the Lee County Centennial celebration in 2007, which hundreds of people attended. She said she wants to see more efforts like it and hopes now that she’s feeling more active, she might be able to help.
Hincks’s work has been focused on the downtown and on history. She founded the local chapter of the Questers, a discussion group focused on history and antiques.
Lanier, on the other hand, has focused largely on religious groups. He’s heavily involved in First Baptist Church of Sanford and has been a Salvation Army board member for 15 years. But his favorite charity, he said, is the Baptist Children’s Home, for which he serves as finance committee chairman and board of directors vice chairman.
He led the local committee helping the Baptist Children’s Home expand to Sanford, which came to fruition in 2006 as Willett Ministries. One of the two homes on the site is named for his late daughter.
But whether he’s sitting at the head of a conference table or ringing a bell at a red kettle around Christmas, Lanier said he always wants to be doing something meaningful.
“I had a young man ask me once what my favorite decade was,” Lanier said. “I said, ‘Whatever one I’m in. There’s always something exciting going on.’”
The two will be honored further by the Lee County Community Foundation in March, at the group’s annual fundraiser. Invitations to the event reportedly are in the mail now. The foundation sponsors several local nonprofits and awards numerous college scholarships.