Joseph Hardy, 84 Lumber Founder, Dies at 100

Hardy is credited with "rethinking the lumber business."

In this undated photo provided by 84 Lumber Company, Joseph Hardy III poses for a picture.
In this undated photo provided by 84 Lumber Company, Joseph Hardy III poses for a picture.
Jordan Millington Liquorice/Courtesy of 84 Lumber Company via AP

FARMINGTON, Pa. (AP) — Joseph Hardy III, founder of the 84 Lumber chain of building materials stores and developer of the Nemacolin resort, has died. He was 100.

A family statement provided by the company said the family had lost its "patriarch and all-around great man." A profile posted on the company's website said he passed away on his 100th birthday Saturday "surrounded by his loving family singing Broadway show tunes to comfort him at his home in Farmington."

"Many knew Joe as a brilliant businessman and enthusiastic entrepreneur," said the statement provided by Amy Smiley, 84 Lumber's vice president of marketing. "Even with his vast success, Joe always remembered what matters most: people. He helped make the American dream real for so many, and he will be greatly missed."

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports Hardy was credited with "rethinking the lumber business in the late 1950s with a cash-and-carry approach focused on professional contractors and builders." He then expanded the company to become the nation's largest privately owned building materials supplier.

He also developed the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort & Spa, now known simply as Nemacolin, and entered the harness-racing business, operating the Meadows Racetrack in North Strabane Township in Washington County.

Born January 7, 1923, in Pittsburgh, Hardy attended Lehigh University and in his final year there enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps, serving as a radioman during World War II.

After the war, he worked in the family-owned jewelry store, earned an industrial engineering degree at the University of Pittsburgh and with family and a friend started Green Hills Lumber, which eventually became 84 Lumber (named after the town where it was headquartered) which currently has more than 250 stores nationwide.

"My father was always asking, 'What's next?'" his daughter Maggie Hardy, to whom he turned over control of 84 Lumber and Nemacolin Resort, said in the profile. "He wanted to conquer the next challenge or make something even better. He taught us never to be satisfied and push to be better today than we were yesterday."

"Joe was a true American success story," former Pennsylvania governor and Homeland Security director Tom Ridge told the Post-Gazette. "And he was a true gentleman. He could have demanded to be treated like a tycoon, but instead he wanted to be known as Joe."

The family statement said Hardy had proven "that nothing is impossible by willing himself to his 100th birthday" which had made the family "beyond proud of him for making this final accomplishment."

A funeral service for Hardy, whose survivors include eight children and 15 grandchildren, is scheduled Thursday in Westminster Presbyterian Church followed by full military honors and private interment.

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