The owner of Beaver Manufacturing, a husband, father and grandfather who spent much of his life as a dedicated chemical engineer, is being remembered as a man with a heart for education and a determined problem-solver.
Edward Needham, 87, of Covington, passed away Oct. 6. Today, Needham’s family, friends and colleagues will join together at First United Methodist Church in Covington to remember the creative leader, who many said was always willing to lend a helping hand.
Needham’s beginnings as an innovator in Newton County took place at Bibb Manufacturing (a textile plant that produced high-quality yarn) in Porterdale during the 1960s.
After his new ideas of how to manufacture higher-quality yarn were dismissed, he, along with then-former Bibb employee Kenneth King, purchased an old cotton warehouse in the small town of Mansfield in 1971. Five years after opening, he assumed full ownership of the company.
Needham taught himself computer programming and wrote the production tracking software for the company. This was his 43rd year of owning and operating the business, which continues to make industrial fibers for customers in countries such as France, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, Italy, Korea and some in Eastern Europe.
Needham’s son, Bryan Needham, chief financial officer at Beaver Manufacturing, began working at the company as a teenager. He said his dad was very creative and innovative in the way he would approach different problems that would come up.
"He had a really successful career in the textile industry by being a great problem-solver and being able to come up with solutions that were cost-effective and that were good for his company and also good for his customers’ companies as well," Bryan Needham said.
Bill Loeble, chief operating officer at Beaver, said he remembers Needham’s brilliance and he admired the company’s achievements well before he began working there.
"As an innovator, he was ahead of his time. … More importantly, he knew the value of the people who made his products and always treated them as family," Loeble said. "As a leader, he reached out to our community neighbors with a passion for education and quality of life. This is his legacy."
Loeble said before meeting Needham, he would see him at trade meetings and considered him a quiet, pleasant man.
"When I had the opportunity to come to Beaver and work for him, it was like a life-changing experience. In those 20 years, he was a boss, a leader, but most of all a friend. He will be sorely missed by all of us here at Beaver."
Family and friends said Needham was a seasoned world traveler, who visited many South American countries, including Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil and Peru during his business travels. Bryan said his dad and mother, Lenora (Nonie) Needham, would often take vacations together, but he joked that his dad would usually find some type of work to do.
"A lot of times they would maybe rent a place or a condo somewhere, usually at the beach somewhere, and he loved finding little things that needed fixing in rental properties that they stayed in. He really wasn’t one to go sit out on the beach all day or anything like that," he said.
Needham’s daughter Kathy Rhoades echoed her brother’s comments, adding that their father enjoyed building radios and was able to repair anything electrical, including organs. He even built his family’s first TV from scratch.
Growing up, Rhoades said she thought her father knew about everything.
"He could fix anything that was broken and he could help me with any homework that I needed help with and he was very patient. He never got impatient with me when he was trying to help me with math. He was just a great dad," Rhoades said. "I thought that he knew the answers to everything that I could ever ask him."
Needham was also remembered as someone who was very passionate about the community and education.
"He believed very much in early childhood education and felt very strongly about being a partner in education with Mansfield Elementary School," Bryan said.
Retired Newton High School teacher Lee Aldridge, who has known the family for more than 25 years, also said Needham and his wife were advocates in education. Mrs. Needham, a member of the Georgia Federation of Women’s Club Service Guild of Covington, often worked with Aldridge in that group. Aldridge said Needham always supported his wife in her efforts.
"He had a great sense of humor. He could tell stories. The service guild met at their house one time, and we had refreshments and Ed told stories to all the ladies in the service guild. He was just so funny," Aldridge said.
"Nonie worked really hard in the field of education," she said. "Ed supported her 100 percent, and he helped her in all of her endeavors. He was very supportive of his family. He was a great father, husband and grandfather. … He was just wonderful in that respect."
Needham is survived by his wife of 62 years; his children and their spouses, Edward W. Needham of Covington, Kathy Needham Rhoades and her husband, Robert, of Social Circle, and Bryan A. Needham of Oxford; his grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews. Funeral services for Mr. Needham will be held at 2 p.m. today at First United Methodist Church in Covington. The family will receive friends at the church prior to the service, from 10 a.m. to noon. Flowers will be accepted, or donations may be made to Covington First United Methodist Church, 1113 Conyers St. SW, Covington, Ga. 30014.