Leeanne Powell

Tragedy has struck Mount Pleasant's Southern Grace Distilleries as the company's co-founder, president and chief executive officer, Leanne Powell, had a massive stroke Saturday.

Powell has been unconscious since that time and remains on life support as of Thursday morning.

Her husband, Drew Arrowood, posted the news on his Facebook page late Wednesday after leading North Carolina's Gov. Roy Cooper on a tour of the distillery at the former Mount Pleasant Prison. Cooper was in town for a prearranged private fund-raising dinner, of which Powell and Arrowood were among many hosts.

During his visit, Cooper bestowed Powell with The Order of the Long Leaf Pine for her lifetime of service to the state of North Carolina. It is the highest honor a governor can bestow on a citizen. Powell spent her pre-whiskey working life in state politics and frequently joked that she changed careers so she could “make an honest living.”

Southern Grace has won numerous awards for its small-batch bourbon and corn whiskey, and has attracted national media attention for being the first distillery to open in a former prison -- the Mount Pleasant Correctional Facility.

Powell will remain on life support as arrangements are made to donate her organs, Arrowood said.

“We thank everybody for their thoughts and prayers over the coming days. Information about the memorial service will be forthcoming as soon as we know ourselves.”

More coverage is planned.

Congressman Bill Hefner

Congressman W.G. “Bill” Hefner served the 8th District from Jan. 3, 1975 to Jan. 3, 1999. Here Hefner is shown with Gloria Stanley and 98-year-old Amanda Miller. Leanne Powell, who worked with Hefner, is holding the birthday cake. FROM THE ARCHIVES OF THE KANNAPOLIS HISTORY ASSOCIATES , COURTESY OF SHELLEY MCBRIDE

Get today’s top stories right in your inbox. Sign up for our daily newsletter.