On His 100th Birthday, 84 Lumber Mogul Joseph Hardy Dies!
A timber baron and even board chairman, Joseph Hardy of 84 Lumber fame, has been compared to Homer.
As the founder of the billion-dollar 84 Lumber empire, which is based in Washington County and is the largest privately held home improvement retailer in the US and third overall behind Home Depot and Lowe’s, he has long admitted that he was driven to succeed.
In the late 1950s, he is credited with reinventing the lumber industry with a cash-and-carry strategy geared toward professional contractors and builders. He then went on to control the expansion of the business, which at one point included more than 500 stores spread across 38 states, landing him and eventually his daughter Maggie Hardy on the Forbes 400 list of the world’s wealthiest people.
With an estimated worth of close to $1 billion by 2002, Ms. Hardy was listed on that list, and 84 Lumber’s annual revenues had risen to $2 billion. It has been estimated that Mr. Hardy is worth up to $1.2 billion.
Both are not on the list right now.
On the same day he turned 100 years old, Mr. Hardy passed away.
“We regret to inform you of the passing of Joseph A. Hardy, III. The patriarch and outstanding man of the Hardy family passed away, “his family said on Saturday. “Joe willed himself to turn 100, proving that nothing is impossible. His family is incredibly proud of him for achieving this last goal.”
Mr. Hardy was a 2-by-4 amid toothpicks, a man of great character. Ms. Hardy, who currently oversees the business and the Hardy family’s Nemacolin resort in Fayette County, recalls accompanying her father to work as a child and finding him “standing on his chair, yelling and tossing clumps of papers at a puzzled lawyer.”
But despite this, he reportedly told a reporter that “the only person I need to keep flogging is myself” and that “I truly am brutal on myself, but that’s the way it has to be.”
When Mr. Hardy said, “It’s a lot of baloney to think I was some sort of visionary,” he also readily admitted that he had long before achieved his aim of becoming a big shot and that he had “always wanted to be a big shot.” He also got older and started questioning his happiness and success: “As you get older, before you cash in, you wonder — lumber. It’s not bad at all. Is that all there is, though?
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As he rose to fame in the media, he answered that question with a famous common-guy viewpoint on life. He eventually concluded that life was more than just cutting down trees, and he started a harness racing operation at the Meadows Racetrack in North Strabane, Washington County. He also demonstrated a penchant for grandeur by creating the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort & Spa, now known as Nemacolin.
Additionally, the media and the general public were interested in his late-life change into a bon vivant, geriatric playboy and avant-garde promoter of unrepentant extravagances, such as parties, young ladies, weddings and divorces, and singing.
He once quipped, “I get a kick out of life.” “I truly do,” you say.
The former jewelry store Hardy & Hayes in Downtown Pittsburgh, dubbed the Tiffany’s of Pittsburgh, was co-owned and run by his father.
Mr. Hardy, the eldest of three sons, went to Lehigh University, Shady Side Academy, and Mount Lebanon High School. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps and served in the South Pacific as a radioman during his final year at Lehigh.
He started working at his father’s jewelry company in 1946 and selling door-to-door produce while studying industrial engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.
He left the jewelry industry after his uncle took him to the Duquesne Club in Downtown Pittsburgh to chastise him for overly aggressive jewelry sales that made an older employee envious.
Soon after, Mr. Hardy and his childhood friend Ed Ryan, whose father had founded Ryan Homes, established the Green Hills Lumber Co. in Upper St. Clair. Early on, things were difficult because they had to make deliveries often at odd hours while making a nickel profit per bag, selling bags of plaster to subcontractors.
After that, he entered the real estate market and constructed a second Green Hills store in the Library village with the help of Mr. Ryan and Mr. Hardy’s brothers Norman and Robert as partners. After just two years, the business claimed sales of $2.5 million.
After experiencing early commercial success, Mr. Hardy traveled to Washington County in 1957 in search of a location with a railroad side so that the partners could build a factory to produce prefabricated homes. He discovered the ideal place in the Eighty-Four neighborhood of North Strabane. The name pleased him. He expressed his desire to buy it from the local farmer.
“The farmer informed him, “You don’t have the kind of money to buy this property,” Mr. Hardy once recalled. “I told him to set a price right away. I believe $5,000 was the most amount he could come up with when he inquired, and I responded, “Sold.
While constructing the building, Mr. Hardy learned of a profitable cash-and-carry lumber business in Ohio from a friend. He opted to convert the space into 84 Lumber instead. With a no-frills strategy that featured retail space in unheated warehouses, the company grew slowly over the following fifty years to become the third-largest home improvement chain in the United States.
Until the 2007 crisis, when Maggie Hardy, the new business president and primary owner, decreased locations by half to 250, the company claimed $1.7 billion in revenue in 1991. It continued to grow to more than 500 stores in 38 states. The business declared its expansion into new areas and recorded $4 billion in yearly revenues in 2020.
For 75 years, Mr. Hardy would contact the top 70 84 Lumber stores in terms of daily earnings, whether at home or on vacation. Starting the calls at around eight in the morning and continuing for about an hour, he would tell whoever answered the phone that they were doing a fantastic job and to keep up the excellent work.
He established a new business in 2017 called Hardy World, which specializes in developing industrial and urban infill sites. Over 400,000 square feet of area, including warehouses, shops, dining establishments, and offices, have been created.
In 1987, Mr. Hardy purchased 2,000 acres outside Farmington, Fayette County, at auction after enjoying three decades of prosperity. He built the upscale Nemacolin resort there. It has luxury suites, a four-diamond hotel, a five-star restaurant, bars, spas, two golf courses, a driving range, tennis courts, a zoo, a ski area, and a zoo.
Nemacolin received a casino license in 2011. It also has a private airfield and an art collection worth $45 million.
The only thing the resort was missing, Mr. Hardy quipped, “but we’re working on it,” was an ocean.
Mr. Hardy eventually moved to Nemacolin after owning homes in Boca Raton, Florida, and Manhattan’s Upper East Side. He was always ready to give reporters a dramatic “hell’s on fire” quote, and he frequently attracted attention with his outspoken lifestyle, which included buying Rolls Royces and Bentleys.
He also gained media attention by acquiring the title of Lord of the Manor for Henley in England, which made his two daughters into a countess and a baroness.
After 51 years of marriage and five children, he divorced his wife, Dorothy, but he broke with tradition more dramatically when he started having an affair with his secretary, Debra Maley. When Ms. Maley was 26 years old, he eventually wed her, and the two of them had two kids.
When Hardy and Dorothy divorced in 1997, comments about Mrs. Hardy receiving half of his fortune made headlines, forcing Mr. Hardy to rename his business 42 Lumber.
Mrs. Hardy made the following remark after the divorce settlement was reached: “Any 74-year-old man who runs off with a 25-year-old is sick in the head. He had a problem with his ego. He’s pitiful,” I said, adding that it had been “a pressure cooker” living with him.
During this time, Mr. Hardy had started spending more time and money building Nemacolin, and a succession of grand events and birthday celebrations made his lifestyle more well-known.
He hosted a sizable birthday celebration in Nemacolin in 2007 when he turned 84. Bette Midler, a young Christina Aguilera, Robin Williams, and the Broadway production of “A Chorus Line” all gave performances.
The celebration began at 2 p.m. and ended 12 hours later and had 500 guests invited. The star of “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous,” Robin Leach, was one of the VIP attendees and sent Mr. Hardy his best wishes for fulfilling all of his champagne and caviar aspirations.
A last birthday celebration featured music by Kenny Rogers.
Following a request from Tiger Woods, who had played on the $18 million Mystic Rock Golf Course created by Pete Dye in 1997, Mr. Hardy successfully secured a PGA Tour tournament at his resort, beginning in 2003 and running for four years.
He and Maggie Hardy hired golfer John Daly, paid for his alcohol treatment, and even had a bronze statue of him created for the golf course.
In a statement by Mr. Hardy’s family, Mr. Daly praised Mr. Hardy as “a great friend and an outstanding person.” I feel incredibly fortunate to have known him since he brought out the best in everyone.
His brief union with Ms. Maley only lasted a few years. Shortly after his divorce in 2007, Mr. Hardy wed Kristin Georgi, a 22-year-old employee of the Nemacolin spa whom he had met while having his nails done. In four months, he filed for divorce.
He subsequently wed 51-year-old Rebecca Davis of Deerfield Beach, Florida, in 2009, went through a second divorce a few years later, and then married Jodi Santella Williams. All of this happened quite covertly.
Mr. Hardy entered politics as well. He was chosen to serve as a Fayette County commissioner in 2003, giving his $46,000 salary to a food bank while investing a sizable amount of his own money in several redevelopment initiatives in Uniontown. However, he soon became impatient with the slow pace of government and lost interest in his work. He didn’t run for office again.
He is said to have also given millions of dollars to hospitals, colleges, and other organizations over the years. For instance, he inquired about the requirements when he went to the farmhouse owned by the Fayette County Historical Society, which required considerable restoration. He was informed that it needed new HVAC systems.
He said, “Send me the estimates.”
Mr. Hardy’s visitation will occur at the Beinhauer Funeral Home, 2828 Washington Road, in McMurray from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday and from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday. Full military honors will be performed after a public funeral on Thursday at 11 a.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 2040 Washington Road. There will be a private funeral.
Non-family members are encouraged to donate in his honor to The Pennsylvania Classic Foundation or Habitat for Humanity.
Surviving Joseph A. Hardy IV, of McMurray, Pa.; Paul Hardy of Bel Air, Md.; Robin Hardy Freed of Boca Raton, Fla.; Katherine Hardy Drake of Plain City, Ohio; Margaret Hardy of Belle Vernon; Paige Hardy Enriquez of Melbourne, Fla.; Taylor Hardy of Pittsburgh, Pa.; and JJ Hardy of Farmington are among Mr. Hardy’s eight children. He is also survived by his wife, Jodi, and his
Along with his three stepsons, Austin Hardy of Farmington, Logan Williams of Uniontown, and Lloyd Williams of Uniontown, he is also survived by 15 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.
Mr. Hardy’s brothers, Robert and Norman, have passed away. His first wife Dorothy predeceased him as well.