John L. Grove dies

June 18, 2003|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

John L. Grove, the founder of two major manufacturing companies in Franklin and Fulton counties and a philanthropist, died Monday.

Grove, 82, died at his home at 171 Apple Drive on Monday night after a long illness. His wife of 60 years, Cora I. Wagner Grove, is among his survivors.

Grove, his brother, Dwight Grove who died in 2000, and Wayne Nicarry of Chambersburg, Pa., in 1946 started what became Grove Worldwide, at one time Franklin County's largest employer with more than 2,000 workers.

The company, which started out making farm wagons in a garage, was incorporated in 1947.

The partners needed a crane to lift finished and unfinished materials so they built one, Nicarry said Tuesday.

A half-century later, Grove Worldwide rolled out its 50,000th crane, a 65-ton piece of equipment that sold for $500,000. Other larger models sold for more than $1 million, company officials said at the time.


Grove was not present for the occasion, but he was asked later that day if he ever thought his small company would get to where it was. "I guess it's something you can never know about. You just start up and get it going. Maybe hard work had something to do with it," he said.

That same year, 1997, Grove Worldwide's sales totaled $860 million.

Grove left the company in 1967. Three years later he bought Fulton Industries in McConnellsburg, Pa., and turned it into JLG Industries, today Fulton County's largest employer. JLG, named for Grove's initials, makes aerial work platforms. Grove later sold his interests in JLG.

Bill Lasky, chairman of the board, president and CEO of JLG, said of Grove's passing:

"He left his mark on the world with innovative products and continues to have a lasting effect on the safety and productivity of workers. He was responsible for creating the aerial work platform that could be driven from the basket," Lasky said in a statement.

"His accomplishments have had a tremendous impact on this region of Pennsylvania. Our company name bears John's initials and I know that he was proud of the company that he founded with Paul Shockey almost 35 years ago. We remain committed to the highest business and ethical principles on which JLG was founded."

"To me, in my opinion, no one has had more influence on the growth and development of this (Cumberland) valley in the last 100 years," L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corporation, said of Grove.

"Thousands of people in Franklin and Fulton counties owe their lives to John L. Grove," Ross said. "Even more important, he took his personal resources and invested them back into the community. He made the valley a better place to live. He helped shape what we have here today."

Ross said Grove "represents the American sense of entrepreneurial spirit. He did not go to college but he became a captain of industry by showing that hard work and determination can overcome all obstacles. He was in a league by himself."

Among Grove's philanthropic accomplishments is the John L. Grove Medical Center. Built in 1970 in Greencastle, it ended a community crisis brought on by a scarcity of physicians and medical facilities.

Grove donated $200,000 to the center, which was built to attract doctors.

He was the original benefactor of the Greencastle-Antrim Foundation, which operates the medical center.

Another contribution that bears Grove's name is the John L. Grove College of Business at Shippensburg (Pa.) University. He and his wife helped to start the college with a $1.25 million donation in the early 1990s, said Peter M. Gigliotti, university spokesmen.

Gigliotti said Grove will be remembered at the university for more than writing checks.

"Obviously, some of it was financial, but John gave of himself to the university in many ways. It was not unusual to see Grove talking with students and faculty at the business college, sharing the wisdom, knowledge and experience he gained over what was a remarkable life," he said.

Grove, his brother Dwight, and others donated a farm in Fulton County that became Camp Sinoquipe, a camp for Mason-Dixon Council Boy Scouts.

Grove was president and co-founder of the Falling Spring Corp., which operates several local motels including Sheraton Four Points in Chambersburg, Plaza Hotel near Halfway and two Hampton Inns, one in Chambersburg and one in Hagerstown.

Two of Franklin County's state legislators, Sen. Terry Punt and Rep. Pat Fleagle, worked at Grove Manufacturing at one time and both knew Grove, although he left the company years before they were hired.

"I knew John primarily as a constituent," Fleagle said. "To talk to him, you wouldn't know he was one of the wealthiest men in Franklin County. People will never know how much he did for Franklin County because he kept it to himself."

"John did not wear his wealth on his sleeve, he conveyed it in his heart," said Punt, who noted that Grove made contributions to the community about which the public knew nothing.

Staff writer Don Aines contributed to this story.

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