Author hopes Grove book builds interest

December 17, 2006|by CANDICE BOSELY

GREENCASTLE, PA. - When the Grove crane manufacturing plant in Shady Grove, Pa., caught fire in 1960, firefighters tried to battle the flames from above by climbing onto the end of a Grove crane called unexpectedly into service.

Other cranes or lifts that originated in the mind of the late John Grove have been used to build sporting arenas, assemble a large King Kong statue and place the star atop a Christmas tree in Washington, D.C., among countless other projects.

Photographs of all of those events are in a new book written by Greencastle author Gerald "Gerry" Lute and titled, "The Life and Legacy of John L. Grove."

The oversized book is part biography and part history, with chapters on John Grove's childhood; the two international Fortune 500 companies he helped found - Grove and JLG; his wife, Cora; his philanthropic activities; his life outside of work; and his legacy.


Lute, who previously wrote a historical romance novel titled "Four Roses for Sarah," spent about two years working on the book about Grove.

He is a nephew of Cora Grove, John Grove' wife, and several people suggested he write a book about his uncle.

Lute was hesitant.

"How do you put your hands around all of that and really do tribute and justice to how great of people they really were?" Lute said. "I said, 'No, no, I can't do that. It's just too big.'"

He acquiesced after another person, an executive with JLG, offered to help.

That person retired and stopped working on the project, but Lute's interest did not flag.

"I guess I got hooked on it," Lute said.

Although he wanted to pay tribute to his uncle, he readily admits Grove was not perfect.

"John and Cora had their weaknesses. They had their faults. They were great people, but they had them and we put those in there," Lute said, adding that one reader expressed appreciation that Lute painted a complete, honest picture of Grove.

Lute spent about two years and, by his estimate, thousands of hours working on the book - conducting interviews, poring over old newspapers and writing, sometimes awaking before sunrise.

Because it is a niche publication that will appeal primarily to area residents and those in the construction trades industry, Lute did not seek a publisher, but instead self-published the book.

A commercial artist did the layout, and Mercersburg Printing is printing copies of the 218-page book, which features nearly 300 photographs and has color on every page.

More than 3,000 copies already have been sold, and a second edition is in the works.

Companies are born

John Grove, his brother, Dwight Grove, and a third partner, Wayne Nicarry, founded Grove Manufacturing in 1947, primarily producing cranes for construction use. The company also produced some agricultural equipment, and later would become a worldwide company.

John Grove's involvement with the company ceased in 1968. Officially he retired, but in reality, he was fired by his brother, creating an estrangement between the two men that lasted for years.

Jobless, Grove and his wife traveled across the country, but after returning to Pennsylvania, Grove "quickly fell back into the pattern of moping and staying around the house," Lute wrote in the book.

"Finally, Cora became impatient and - as John put it - raised her voice, saying 'Johnnie ... get the hell out of the house! Do something!" Lute wrote. "Cora's exasperated tone made her husband realize he had licked his wounds long enough. It was time for John to listen to his heart and start a new business. It was time to move on."

Meeting secretly at first with two new business partners, Grove in 1969 founded a company first named Condor Industries, and later renamed JLG - Grove's initials - in 1973.

Several ideas of what to manufacture were discussed, with the three eventually deciding to build aerial lifts.

An international company, JLG still is in business.

However, the first company Grove formed, Grove Worldwide, was acquired by Manitowoc Co.

Over their lives, John and Cora Grove donated millions of dollars to various organizations, including Shippensburg (Pa.) University, where the college's school of business is named after John Grove, a spiritual center is named after Cora Grove and a theater is named after both. Other groups also received money from the couple, including Boy Scouts, schools and medical facilities.

John Grove died June 16, 2003, and Cora Grove died June 4, 2005.

Hoping Grove will inspire

Writing is a passion for Lute, whose day job is working in the engineering department at TruckCraft Corp. in Marion, Pa.

Now 56, Lute did not become close to his aunt and uncle until he was in his late teens. After his first year at Penn State, he spent summers with them, working at JLG during his summer breaks from 1970 to 1972.

When he graduated, he considered JLG to be a "small struggling company," so he sought employment elsewhere, and worked for General Motors in Buffalo.

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