Tom (Teunis) van Wingerden, founder of Metrolina Greenhouses in Huntersville, N.C., was killed at the 150-acre facility on Dec. 19. WCNC-TV reports that Charlotte- Mecklenburg police were called to the greenhouses around 3:30 a.m. and that van Wingerden was involved in an accident inside the facilities involving an ATV-type vehicle. The Charlotte Observer reported that detectives were still investigating the case.
van Wingerden was born on Feb. 12, 1946, in Ridderkerk, Netherlands. He was the 2nd eldest son of the 16 children born to the late Aart and Cora van Wingerden. Tom immigrated to the U.S. with his wife Vickie in 1971 and started Metrolina Greenhouses a year later. The company, which operates nearly 6 million sq. ft. of greenhouses, employs 600 full-time and over 200 part-time employees and is now run by his children.
Charity Pittman, assoc. director of Lake Norman Regional Economic Development Corp., told the Charlotte Business Journal that the company was one of the area’s top 5 employers. Metrolina supplies over 1,000 retailers along the East Coast and does about $130 million in sales. The company produced over 4 million poinsettias this year.
During the last 6 years van Wingerden was involved in running Double Harvest, a missionary project in Haiti that assists the country’s under-privileged residents. The project was started by Tom’s father in 1981 and now consists of 200 acres, including a farm, school, medical clinic and housing project.
van Wingerden was also an avid race car driver, who participated regularly in the Legends racing car series along with other members of his family. He was a regular driver in races held at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
van Wingerden is survived by his wife, 6 children and 14 grandchildren. Memorials can be made to Double Harvest-Haiti, Tom van Wingerden Memorial Fund, 55 South Main St., Oberlin, OH 44074.