The ability to create something from nothing, to construct something from the ground up, with your hands, it’s a very special gift. It’s very God-like.
But to do it for someone as shelter from the elements, to raise a family, to provide security, that makes it even more special.
For many Palmyra-Campbelltown area residents, home was where John Yordy’s heart was.
Yordy passed away in August of 2014, at the age of 92. But his memory and reputation live on, not unlike many of his well-built houses.
Not only is Yordy recognized as one of Lebanon County’s most prolific builders, he’s also known as one of the area’s most proficient.
Phil Yordy is John’s son. Phil helped his dad build many homes and is the guy who probably knew John the best. Phil has fond and vivid memories of his father.
“He was always thinking of building,” said Phil Yordy. “His reputation started to grow. People knew they were going to get a well-built home at a reasonable price. What made him a good builder was he was always on the job. He would be there.
“Dad was the builder and the designer,” continued Yordy. “He knew stuff from doing it. As soon as the bulldozer left that ditch, he was down there. But he was building at a good time. Frank Lloyd Wright ain’t got nothing on my dad.”
For nearly six decades, from the middle of the last century until the onset of this one, John Yordy built, homes, quality homes. He built them all over Lebanon County, but mostly in the Palmyra and Campbelltown areas.
No one ever kept track, but it is believed Yordy constructed several hundred homes, as well as dozens of commercial businesses. In some parts of the western portion of Lebanon County, Yordy was responsible for building entire rows of houses, neighborhoods and developments.
“He would build a brick, two-car-garage house for $10,000,” said Phil Yordy. “He built so many things. He was just busy. He was a hard worker. There was no quitting time at five o’clock. My dad was involved in all aspects of the job and that led to quality.
“He took everything in stride,” Yordy continued. “He put his mark on this earth, and it’s going to be around for years. It went way beyond attention-to-detail. He had pride and he had a vision. He didn’t cut corners.”
Besides outstanding workmanship and structures built to last, John Yordy’s custom homes featured a number of other distinct characteristics. Many of his homes included over-hangs, ornate windows with planter boxes and some were built with a Chalet design.
“He wasn’t afraid to try anything,” said Yordy. “He loved a challenge. He told me one time, ‘A wise man will change his mind. A fool never will.’ ‘Whatever you do in life, do it to the best of your ability.’ That’s how dad lived his life.
“It was quality all the way. People knew that,” Yordy added. “He left his work speak for itself. He took people at their word, and at the end of the day, you shook someone’s hand. When you told my dad something, you didn’t have to worry about anything. He had a quality reputation. He could be trusted. Dad was a people person. He helped people.”
John Yordy didn’t enjoy a lot of free time, but when he did, he enjoyed traveling. He was also part of the United States Army force which stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day in World War II.
“He would never talk about it,” said Yordy, of June 6, 1944. “But his experiences in Europe inspired him to build houses that were different. He was a designer, but he never got credit for being a designer. Everything was drawn to scale. To him, the blueprints were part of the job. He didn’t charge customers anything extra. I told dad, ‘You should charge for the blueprints.’
“He was an incredible father to have,” added Yordy. “I can’t say enough about him. He kept pushing forward and he was his own boss the whole time. His mind was always going. I’d have to live five lifetimes in-a-row to accomplish everything that man did.”
At the age of 18, Phil Yordy began working for and with his father. He did so for the better part of 35 years.
That experience helped shape Phil Yordy into the man he is today.
“As a kid, you sort of say, ‘I don’t want to be a builder,’” said Yordy. “That was true for a little bit, then finally I started working for him. He never paid me much money. But I knew he was my father and that he’d help me out some day, and he did. He had great people working for him, and then some of those guys started their own businesses.
“We had our moments, but we got along most of the time,” continued Yordy. “He was the nicest man you ever wanted to work for. If you made a mistake, he would never yell at anybody. The stuff he instilled in me made me a different person. But everybody thinks their father is very special.”
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Because he had such big shoes to fill, Phil Yordy never completely followed in his father’s footsteps. He never took over the family business.
Instead, Phil Yordy turned to general contracting, custom wood working and chainsaw carvings.
“I knew I was never going to take over the business and out shine him,” said Yordy. “My whole life long, I watched him do all kinds of stuff. I would think, ‘How am I going to out shine that?’ But you want your parents to be proud of you. As a son, I looked up to him. But I wanted to leave my mark on the earth too.
“I know he loved me, but he wouldn’t show it,” added Yordy. “For him, actions spoke louder than words. But I wanted to stand out on my own. I knew all the stuff, how to do it the right way. I tried to be a good carpenter. But this carving thing came out of the blue. I never thought I’d be a chainsaw carver. I started out whittling, I was challenging myself. A lot of people told me my dad was proud of my carvings. But he wouldn’t tell me.”
The apple never falls to far from the tree.
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