The passing of Benjamin Olewine III on May 27 saddened the Homeland Center family. Ben’s generosity touched many residents as well as the entire Harrisburg community in ways big and small.
We were honored to have Ben serve as an honorary co-chair for Homeland’s 150th Gala Anniversary Celebration at the Hilton Harrisburg in early May. Ben was too ill to attend, but in his co-chair message for the Gala program, he talked about why he believed Homeland’s mission is so critical.
“Everyone deserves a safe and secure home,” Ben wrote. “As we age, finding a home that offers the best in personal and skilled care is crucial.”
He also recalled his long history with Homeland, which began when his family’s grocery store would deliver supplies in the early 1900s. Much later, Homeland cared for his wife, Gloria and his aunt, Marian Olewine. In appreciation of the care they received, he supported the renovation of the Gathering Room in his wife’s memory and the creation of the unique, 1950s-style diner in memory of his aunt.
“It was an honor to call Ben a friend, he’ll be missed by me and all of us at Homeland,” said Barry Ramper II, Homeland’s President and CEO. “He had a big heart, cared about people and the community and provided an example for all of us to follow.”
Under Ben’s leadership, the family business grew into Olewine, Inc., one of the leading wholesale food distributors in the country. In 1988 he sold the company to Sysco Corporation and became Chairman Emeritus.
When Ben saw a way he could help he didn’t hesitate, as he did when he helped a waitress at one of his favorite restaurants, the Peachtree in Susquehanna Township. After hearing she was having a tough time paying for classes, Ben paid her nursing school tuition.
Ben’s generosity made possible the Benjamin Olewine III Nature Center at Wildwood Lake, and he worked to promote environmental education. He also funded the Culinary Arts School at Harrisburg Area Community College and was a key supporter of many other civic organizations throughout Harrisburg.
Surviving are his son, Benjamin Olewine IV, his daughter and son-in-law, Kristen Olewine Milke and Denis Milke, M.D., and his wonderful friend and caregiver, Samuel Nkum. He is also survived by his sister-in-law, Anita Dowd; cousins, Sandra Novotni and Peggy Ann Pedersen; nephew Steven Dowd; and niece, Patricia Berendt.