Funeral services were held Friday for Richard Wolfington Sr., 75, the CEO of Wolfington Body Company, a dealer for IC Bus and Trans Tech Bus. Wolfington Sr. headed the company for more than 50 years. He died in his sleep sometime before Christmas morning at his vacation home in the Poconos, according to his obituary.
“It was his favorite place on Earth,” Richard Jr. said of the Skytop retreat.
He told STN the company will remain a family business as he and his sister, Eganne, become the fifth generation of Wolfingtons to take its reins — an apt analogy considering the company’s first carriage in 1876 remains in their logo.
“The longtime management team of Dave Fitzgerald, Al Dellinger, Frank Dutcher, Brian Engle and James Titus will continue to meet industry challenges as the company moves into its fifth generation of management under Richard I. Wolfington Jr. and Eganne Wolfington McGowan,” said Richard Jr. “They, along with the rest of the extended Wolfington ‘family’ will strive to meet the standards of professionalism set by Richard Sr., his father and grandfather all the way back to the company’s inception in 1876.”
While the family business originated in Philadelphia, in 1968 it relocated to Exton, Pennsylvania — a move that marked the beginning of a new era, the company said. Today Wolfington Body Company is one of the largest school bus dealers in the nation and employs more than 400 full-time and part-time employees at five locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
In 1987 the company began providing complete school bus service to area school districts, and currently serves more than a dozen Pennsylvania and New Jersey districts. Wolfington expanded its operation to provide commercial bus service as well.
Richard Sr.’s great-grandfather, Alexander J. Wolfington, founded the family business in 1876 as a manufacturer of horse-drawn carriages. By 1910, Alexander turned the reins over to son Harry J., who believed the future of transportation was in motorized vehicles.
When East Coast Coach Company approached Wolfington about building a bus body, Harry J.’s son Harry A., who had joined the business in 1916, saw it as a new opportunity, according to the company. The first bus with a body built by Wolfington ran between Wanamaker’s in Philadelphia and the Million Dollar Pier in Atlantic City.
“Under the direction of the hard-working and pragmatic Mr. (Harry A.) Wolfington, the company grew rapidly, and by 1940 it was the largest bus, ambulance and hearse distributor in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland,” according to his 1992 obituary.
By that time, the company had streamlined bus sales. Previously, body manufacturers sold the bodies to truck dealers, which would mount them on their chassis and sell as a package to operators. But Harry A. bought chassis and sent them directly to the body manufacturer for upfitting. Then he supplied the complete buses to his customers.
Richard Sr. was born in Philadelphia and grew up with four brothers and two sisters in Drexel Hill. He was raised around school buses and washed the vehicles when he was in high school. He graduated from Malvern Preparatory School in 1957 and then earned a bachelor’s degree at Merrimack College in Massachusetts. He also served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.
Loyalty was important to Richard Sr., who was proud of the low employee turnover at his company. He often said, “Employee loyalty is a major factor in the success of the company.”
Before his passing, he predicted the family business would continue to grow as long as it holds on to the traditional values first exhibited by his great-grandfather Alexander 130 years ago.