Petro “Pete” Kulynych, a former founding director of Lowes Cos. Inc., died Saturday at his home in Wilkesboro.
He was 93.
Kulynych was a life member of the Wake Forest University Board of Trustees and a life member of the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center Board of Visitors.
He was born June 23, 1921, to Ukrainian immigrant parents in Smithmill, Pa. He moved to North Carolina in the 1930s as a Civilian Conservation Corps worker on the Blue Ridge Parkway. He served in the United States Navy and fought in World War II.
Kulynych joined Lowe’s in November 1946 as a bookkeeper and the company’s first employee. He became one of five men to manage the home-improvement company when Ralph Buchan, who co-owned Lowe’s with Jim Lowe, died in 1960. He helped take the company public in 1961.
His varied titles at Lowe’s included executive vice president under the office of president, chairman of the board, and chairman and president of the Lowe’s Charitable & Educational Foundation. He retired from the company in 1996.
Kulynych was preceded in death by his wife, Roena Mae Bullis Kulynych, and is survived by two daughters, Brenda Cline of Hickory and Janice Story of Atlanta, Ga.
Clarissa Felts, vice president of collaboration for Lowe’s, described Kulynych as a firm but fair leader, and a dynamic and charismatic individual who cared about people.
“He loved his family, and he loved Lowe’s and the people of Lowe’s, and he also loved giving back,” Felts said.
He was known for his philanthropic work through Lowe’s and personally for funding educational and medical research, particularly research into the causes and treatment of dementia.
Dr. Jeff D. Williamson, co-director of the Roena Kulynych Center at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, spoke in an email of Kulynych and his wife’s impact on education and health in this region.
“Almost every week I encounter someone I’ve never met before — a nurse or doctor or other member of a health care team — someone from a family in this area that had no prior college graduates but because of Mr. and Mrs. Kulynych were able to afford a college graduate school education,” Williamson said.