Joseph Hardy, founder and CEO of 84 Lumber, died Saturday, January 7, passing on his 100th birthday.

Hardy’s career began in 1946, when he worked at his father’s jewelry store while studying at the University of Pittsburgh, where he earned a degree in industrial engineering. It was then he discovered his ability as a salesperson, officials for 84 Lumber say, adding, “He was, in fact, so good that his uncle scolded him for being too aggressive in achieving record-breaking sales. So, he knew it was time to do something on his own.”

With the help of his brothers Norman and Bob, and his childhood friend Ed Ryan, of Ryan Homes, Hardy founded Green Hills Lumber. The company started out of a vacant basement but grew to become 84 Lumber (named after Eighty Four, Pa., where the company is headquartered). According to company officials, 84 Lumber grew to become the largest privately owned building materials supplier in the world, now employing approximately 6,000 associates across 30 states.

Joseph Hardy, founder and CEO of 84 Lumber. Photo by Jordan Millington Liquorice

In 1985, Hardy was named by Forbes magazine as one of the wealthiest people in the world. He was selected by Venture Magazine as Entrepreneur of the Year in 1987 and earned an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Washington & Jefferson College, in Washington, Pa. But in the 1980s, he was only getting started, company officials suggest. In addition to 84 Lumber, Hardy would go on to enter the hospitality business, developing a world-class resort, and in 2017 founded Hardy World LLC, a real estate development firm. He was a partner in Meadows Racetrack, in Meadowlands, Pa., and played a critical role in a multi-million-dollar renovation of Uniontown, Pa., where he contributed $60 million to the town’s revitalization.

“My father was always asking, ‘What’s next?’ He wanted to conquer the next challenge or make something even better,” says daughter, Maggie Hardy, current owner and president of 84 Lumber. “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 is survived by eight children and 15 grandchildren.

“In true Hardy fashion, Joe passed away with his cigar in his hand, surrounded by his loving family, singing Broadway show tunes to comfort him at his home in Farmington, Pa.,” officials say.

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