Joe Hardy III, who turned a small cash-and-carry lumberyard business in Eighty-Four, Washington County, into the nation's largest privately held building materials supplier, died Jan. 7, his 100th birthday.
A visionary who founded 84 Lumber and Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Fayette County, Hardy was remembered by his family as a brilliant businessman and entrepreneur who valued his family and people.
A statement released on behalf of the family by the company said, "It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Joseph A. Hardy, III. 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."
The son of Norman and Katherine Hardy, he was born in Upper St. Clair in 1923. Hardy attended Mt. Lebanon High School, Shady Side Acaemy and Lehigh University before enlisting in the U.S. Army Air Corps. As a lieutenant, he served as radioman during World War II.
In 1946, he began working for his father in the family-owned jewelry store, Hardy & Hayes while also attending the University of Pittsburgh as a part-time student. During the four years he worked at Hardy & Hayes, he earned a degree in Industrial Engineering.
With childhood friend Ed Ryan, of Ryan Homes fame, and brothers Norman and Bob, Hardy started Green Hills Lumber in a vacant basement when he was 31 years old. In 1956, they opened their first store and named it 84 Lumber after the town in which it was headquartered.
Selling to home builders in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, the company grew substantially, opening stores across America using a "no-frills" model. Today, there are nearly 250 stores in 31 states.
In 1987, the same year he was elected Entrepreneur of the Year by Venture Magazine, Hardy purchased a parcel of land in Farmington, PA. It would eventually become the site of the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. It features a historic hotel and more than 15 dining options (among them, Lautrec, which holds the Forbes Five Star and AAA Five-Diamond awards), an extensive art collection, golf courses and outdoor activities including fly-fishing.
Hardy's success landed him on the Forbes 400 list of the country's wealthiest people.
Hardy eventually turned over control of the businesses to his daughter, Maggie Hardy Knox.
Hardy, a champion for his family, community and region, was a partner in the meadows Racetrack in Meadowlands, PA for ten years. He also was elected to the Fayette County Board of Commissioners (he donated his salary to a food bank) and served as vice chairman from 2004 to 2007.
A billionaire philanthropist, Hardy was chosen as Philanthropist of the Year by the Washington County Community Foundation.
A public funeral service was held Jan. 12 in Westminster Presbyterian Church followed by full military honors.