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Benchoff was former Grove CEO, president

July 13, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The first sales manager at what is now Manitwoc Crane Group, who once attributed his success to knowledge of farming and conversational abilities with customers, died Thursday.

J. Martin Benchoff was 80.

The lifelong resident of the Waynesboro area and founder of the Waynesboro Day Care Center served as president and CEO of Grove Manufacturing Co. in Shady Grove, Pa., and was later chairman of the board.

"He took it from small, local company to a worldwide, powerful company," Gerald Lute said. "I think he was very instrumental in the growth of the company."

In Lute's book, "The Life and Legacy of John L. Grove," Benchoff, in interviews, talked about expanding Grove into international markets.

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"Well, those boys (the Grove brothers) did not understand European foreign markets and the people. When you got after it and you understood, you could get quite a ways with it. And that's what made it Grove," he's quoted as saying in the book published last year.

Benchoff's presidency with the company came shortly after the 1967 acquisition by Walter Kidde Co. and the edging out of brothers Dwight and John Grove.

Benchoff described "minor and major coups going on in there after the acquisition" in Lute's book.

The time marked the transition from farm equipment to cranes, according to the book.

Benchoff worked well with the Walter Kidde Co., but was not happy with the direction taken by future owners, Lute said.

"I'm sure in younger years he was very aggressive and controlling. When we talked to him, age had mellowed him," Lute said.

The late Wayne A. Nicarry, a founding partner of the Shady Grove landmark, is quoted in the book as saying Benchoff "deserves a lot of credit as far as I'm concerned. He's the one that really put Grove on the world map, beyond the shadow of a doubt: a lot of ingenuity and foresight, a visionary."

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