Area mourns Mann’s passing

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 12, 2006

PENDLETON – Ben I. Mann is being remembered as a leader who was concerned about his fellow man.

Mann died in his home Wednesday at the age of 82 after a lifetime of service to farmers and students in Northampton County.

“Ben Mann was a farmer and he always had the farmer’s welfare in mind,” said Kelly Vann, who chaired what was then known as the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS)board. “He was the farmer’s friend.”

For nearly 40 years Mann served as Executive Director of ASCS which later became known as the Farm Service Agency in Northampton County. He held that position from 1957 until his retirement in 1995.

Vann said he knew Mann from the time he was in high school when Mann would serve as a guest speaker for Future Farmer’s of America events.

“He was a personal friend and a friend to every farmer that walked into that office,” Vann stressed. “That was how he carried out his job.”

Blonnie B. Johnson, who spent 36 years working with Mann, called him a fine man and a gentleman.

“He was an excellent boss, a friend and a gentleman,” Johnson said. “He was very good in the work that we did with farmers and I think they all respected him.”

Bill Early, who heads the FSA office in Hertford County, called Mann a “mentor” and remembered his hard work with the county employees’ association.

“I found him very good to work with,” Early said. “He was already in the agency when I came on board and we worked together for about 30 years.

“He was always very interested in making sure programs were administered as they were intended to be,” he continued. “He wanted to make sure all farmers in the county received the benefits they deserved.”

Early added that Mann was both well-rounded and well respected.

“He was held in high esteem by those who knew him,” Early insisted.

In addition to his work with farmers, Mann was a member of the Northampton County Board of Education where he worked to provide better education to the county’s children.

Two of those who served with Mann, Grace Edwards and Don Johnson, are still on the board.

“It was a pleasure serving with Ben,” Edwards said. “He was kind of quiet, but when he spoke, it was important and you really needed to listen.”

Edwards said she believed the children of Northampton County were first in Mann’s heart and he served because he wanted more opportunities for children.

Johnson called Mann, “one of the finest men I’ve ever met.”

He said, “Ben Mann was conscientious, dedicated and concerned.

“He was a pillar of strength on the board,” Johnson continued. “He was the peacemaker of the group. Being the oldest member of the board, everyone looked up to him and respected him and his judgment.”

In addition to serving farmers and students, Mann was a Petty Officer in the United States Navy and served in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters during World War II. He was a graduate of North Carolina State University.

Mann also served on the Board of Directors of the Kirby Peanut Warehouse and the Meherrin Agriculture and Chemical Company in Severn.

He is survived by his loving wife of 58 years, Louise Edwards Mann, and four children.

A service celebrating the life of Benjamin Irvin Mann will be held at 11 a.m. today in Roberts Chapel Baptist Church.

A complete obituary is available on page 6A.