Joe Hardy, 84 Lumber founder, dies at 100

The inspirational business leader continued to make daily phone calls to stores until the very end.
Joe Hardy 100 84 Lumber
Joe Hardy, in a photo supplied by 84 Lumber to celebrate his birthday.

Joseph A. Hardy III, the founder of 84 Lumber, died on his 100th birthday on Jan. 7.

Born in 1923, in Upper St. Clair township, outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Hardy graduated from high school in 1941, and enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces serving as a lieutenant and Air Forces radioman during World War II. 

A statement from the company reads: “The Hardy family lost their patriarch and all-around great man. Many knew Joe as a brilliant businessman and enthusiastic entrepreneur. 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.

“Joe proved that nothing is impossible by willing himself to his 100th birthday. His family is beyond proud of him for making this final accomplishment.”

Before his death, Hardy shared his secret to his longevity and said it’s important “to stay contemporary and stay with the times as they continue to evolve.”

“The basic principles don’t change too much whenever you are dealing with human nature,” he added.

Hardy held the titles of husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, founder, businessman, entrepreneur, philanthropist, art collector, lumber lord, and former lord of the manor of Henley-in-Arden, according to 84 Lumber. 

“My father was always asking, ‘What’s next?’ 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.”
Maggie Hardy

After his service in World War II, Hardy worked at his uncle’s jewelry store, later graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, and opened Green Hills Lumber in Bridgeville, Pa.

A few years later, he pooled resources with his two brothers and two of his friends to pay for land and buildings for a new venture, the cost of which totaled $84,000. 

With determination and vision, 84 Lumber, a new cash- and-carry lumber business, opened in the town of Eighty Four, Pa. Under Hardy’s leadership and tireless work ethic, 84 Lumber expanded and became the largest privately owned building materials supplier in the country.

In his obituary, Joe’s daughter Maggie Hardy wrote: “My father was always asking, ‘What’s next?’ 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. He had an infectious outlook and personality that inspired people. He never missed an opportunity to teach a lesson in business or in life. And he valued his people more than anything.”

Hardy went on to earn an honorary Doctor of Law degree from Washington & Jefferson College in 1984. He also established a program at the college for the study and encouragement of entrepreneurship. 

Joe Hardy, circa 1956.

In 1985, Hardy made his first appearance on The Forbes 400 list as one of the wealthiest people in the world, and Venture Magazine named him Entrepreneur of the Year in 1987. That same year, he attended a bankruptcy auction with hopes of buying a few acres near a lake for his daughter.

Maggie and he came away with a few hundred acres, an old hunting lodge, a golf course, and the foundation of what became the Nemacolin resort in Farmington, Pa.

The University of Pittsburgh elected Joseph A. Hardy III to the board of trustees in 1989, and Hardy became lord of the manor of Henley-in-Arden in Warwickshire, England — a title that dates to the year 1220, and one which he later bequeathed to his daughter Robin in 1995.

In 1992, Joe appointed Maggie as the president of 84 Lumber, and together, they led the company with growth, visionary sales achievements, and success. With Maggie at the reins of 84 Lumber, Hardy continued to develop and expand Nemacolin, working with Pete Dye to develop and build the Mystic Rock golf course, which opened in 1995, and hosted the PGA 84 Lumber Classic from 2003-2006.

Expansion continued at Nemacolin in the late 1990s and early 2000s, bringing to the property a 124-room hotel modeled after the Ritz Paris. Hardy named Maggie as president and owner of Nemacolin in 2002.

84 Lumber and Nemacolin

The year 2004 was notable for Hardy: 84 Lumber achieved $3 billion in sales; he became a Fayette County Commissioner while spearheading a multimillion-dollar project to restore and revitalize downtown Uniontown, Pa; he was awarded the Washington County Community Foundation’s Philanthropist of the Year and the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year in Pennsylvania; and the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired Falling Rock hotel opened at Nemacolin.

In the decades of his continuing story, Hardy has remained steadfast in his commitment to his family, community, region, and to his businesses. The business leader prioritizes time for his eight children. 

The family had made plans to celebrate Hardy's 100th birthday on Jan. 7.

Until the very end of his life, Hardy made daily phone calls to the top 70 stores at 84 Lumber while congratulating them on their daily sales and top margins — something he’s done for 65 years.

84 Lumber now operates nearly 260 stores, component manufacturing plants, custom door shops, custom millwork shops and engineered wood product centers in more than 35 states.

Hardy also remained a willing mentor until the end of his life.

His advice to young entrepreneurs is: “Keep an open mind. People are everything. Sometimes you have to tickle their brain to truly find out an individual’s goals and analyze what they are seeking. However, trying to evaluate an individual and catering to their desires will lead to ultimate success. It is a matter of a team, and you must be willing to take the positives and negatives. The failures are an opportunity to learn and strengthen a team. Attitude will surely set you apart and make you excel.”

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