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Hillard Madway, savvy businessman, longtime board member, and family patriarch, dies at 94

He graduated from Overbrook High School, served in the Navy during World War II, and went on to own and operate several successful businesses in the building industry.

Mr. Madway and his wife Janet were married for 71 years.
Mr. Madway and his wife Janet were married for 71 years.Read moreCourtesy of the Family

Hillard Madway, 94, of Bryn Mawr, a longtime prosperous businessman, Navy veteran, and member of several important boards, died Friday, Aug. 13, of heart failure at home.

He also was the acknowledged chairman of the ever-expanding Madway clan.

“He taught us that family always comes first no matter what,” granddaughters Lauren and Bess Collier wrote in a tribute.

Mr. Madway was the former head of several companies that operated in the building construction business. He owned Conshohocken-based Ridge Pike Lumber Co., and Ridge Homes; was a longtime executive at Evans Products Co.; and later worked with his son and son-in-law at their Ridge Pike Building Materials Inc.

Committed to public service as well as private business, Mr. Madway served on the board of trustees at Friends’ Central School in Wynnewood for more than 30 years and was a committee chairman on the board of the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency during the administration of Gov. Dick Thornburgh in the 1980s.

He also helped the Philadelphia-based National Museum of American Jewish History overcome early financial challenges years ago.

“He never bragged. He was humble,” said his son, David. “But he always marveled at what happened, and said it wasn’t bad for somebody who started out working for his father and had only two years of college.”

Born Dec. 29, 1926, Mr. Madway grew up in Wynnefield, graduated from Overbrook High School, and joined the Navy in 1944 at the height of World War II. He was trained as a sonar technician and assigned to a destroyer, but the war ended just as he was about to be deployed.

He went to Penn State for a few terms on the GI Bill but was persuaded by his father, Meyer Madway, to quit school and join the family business of running lumber and salvage yards. He opened his own company, Ridge Pike Lumber Co., in 1953 and later went into business with his brother-in-law selling prefabricated houses as Ridge Homes.

The firm was sold to Evans Products Co. in 1969, and Mr. Madway joined Evans and became president of its building division and served on the company’s board.

From 1978 until 2010, Mr. Madway worked with son David and son-in-law Richard Collier at their business, Ridge Pike Building Materials Inc.

“It was the circle of life,” David Madway said, referring to Mr. Madway’s starting in business with his father and concluding with his son and son-in-law. “He was our guiding light.”

“He worked as well with the men in the boardroom as he did with the men in the lumber yard,” said daughter Betsy.

Mr. Madway met his wife of 71 years, Janet Diamond, on a blind date, and they raised their five children in Merion and later moved to Bryn Mawr. He was an engaging storyteller, especially about his travels in the Navy; would not leave the dinner table until dessert was served; and ran the 10-mile Broad Street Run at 73 in 1999.

Mr. Madway played golf and tennis, and enjoyed traveling with his family. He visited Japan, Russia, and China, among other places, and, being the “alpha dad,” liked to plan the itinerary. Mostly, he “just liked being together,” his family said.

“He had a strong, loving household,” said his daughter Carol Collier, “and you can’t put a price tag on that.”

In addition to his wife, son, daughters, and granddaughters, Mr. Madway is survived by daughters Randi Berman and Robin Green, nine other grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren, and other relatives. A sister died earlier.

Services were held Aug. 16.