Penn Hills fixture Richey retires after working for 78 years at hardware store

Patrick Varine
| Thursday, May 16, 2013, 2:45 p.m.

Chances are good that if you've been in Jackson Hardware sometime between 1935 and last month, you know John Richey Sr.

Or he knows you.

The 89-year-old Penn Hills resident recently retired after 78 years at the Universal Road store, which was literally one room when Richey started working there.

“We had no water or gas in the beginning,” Richey said. “Just a stove — you dumped the coal in there and that was all the heat we had.”

Richey's first job at Jackson was helping with ice deliveries.

“We'd take deliveries to the local iceboxes and we gave out samples to kids,” he said.

Richey also worked alongside the store's founder, Robert Fulton Jackson, picking up and delivering coal from the Newfield and Renton mines.

“I started working here after I graduated in '72,” said Jackson's grandson, Wes, “and he was always here. ... Back in the day, he knew pretty much everybody by name, where they lived, who they were married to and who they were related to.”

It wasn't only Jackson's customers, however, that knew Richey's face.

He also worked for three decades at the People's Bank of Unity, from 1958 to 1988, before it was taken over by S&T Bank. Richey was a teller and also worked in the loan department. Then he would spend Saturdays at Jackson Hardware.

Richey worked at Walters Manufacturing Company in Oakmont, which specialized in metal cabinetry. But all the while, he spent a good deal of his spare time at the hardware store: first on Saturdays, then three days per week after he retired from the bank. Most recently, Richey would spend Mondays and Fridays at the store.

“I liked to see the people and talk to them,” he said.

In addition to being a well-known face in Penn Hills, Richey was also a World War II veteran. He served as an Army scout from 1943 to '45, and was shot through the arm on a scouting mission in England.

These days, Richey is counting the days until his 50-year anniversary as a member of the Freemasons (it's coming up in the middle of the month) and until his 90th birthday (Oct. 1 of this year).

He still sings in the choir at Unity United Presbyterian Church, where he served as treasurer for nearly 40 years. Richey also was treasurer for the local AARP branch.

“He was always into the money,” said his son, John Jr. of Oakmont, as both he and his father laughed.

Richey said he can't really give a good reason why he decided to keep working at Jackson for almost eight decades.

“Dad just kept doing it,” John Jr. said. “He never really said why.”

If Richey felt a strong connection the store, the feeling was mutual, according to Wes Jackson.

“My grandfather passed away in 1956, and had worked with John so long that even in his will, he left money to John,” Wes said. “I still have a copy and I remember reading it. ‘To my dedicated employee' ... I was like, ‘Dang, he's been here a long time.'”

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or

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