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Gastonia's ornament king celebrates 100th birthday

Marshall Rauch is long retired and thankful to be looking back at such a 'productive' and 'giving' life.

GASTONIA, N.C. — It's a special day for a man known as Gastonia's ornament king. Marshall Rauch is celebrating his 100th birthday today.

At one point in his life, he was the largest Christmas ornament maker in the world.

Rauch is long retired and thankful to be looking back at such a 'productive' and 'giving' life.

"I lived in New York, came to college at Duke [University], married a girl from Bessemer City and stayed in North Carolina," Raunch told WCNC Charlotte's Fred Shropshire.

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Blessings and irony in between have added color to his journey, like his time under legendary Duke basketball coach Eddie Cameron.
"I played on the freshman team at duke that first year 40, 41," Raunch recalled.

During his junior year, duty in World War II called and he answered. 

"I wasn't the only one," Raunch said. "Thousands of young men were taken out of college and went into service."

When he returned he and his late wife Jeanne moved to Gastonia. They took out a loan, bought machinery and opened a small business manufacturing crochet thread and wrapping cord.

"It got to a point where I had about $1 million in volume and 40 employees."

But things really expanded when Rauch got a call from Bill Spiegal of the famed Spiegal Catalog.

"We made what was called the satin Christmas ornament," Raunch said. It was expandable polystyrene center and rayon wrapped around it."

In five years, his business grew from 40 employees in Gastonia to 1400 in six states, making this Jewish native New Yorker the biggest Christmas ornament manufacturer in the world. 

In 1995, Rauch sold his company for $51 million. But more than a prospering business, this 100-year-old credits serving others to his longevity, at 29 years old in Gastonia's city council, working closely to integrate the community. Later, he worked in North Carolina's state senate, eventually landing on the Board of Governors that runs the university system.

With five children and a wealth of impact, he says the one thing he values most is charity.

"I really liked the idea of helping someone and then never have to be helped," Rauch said.

Contact Fred Shropshire at fred@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.


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