Legacy lives on

Earl Hargrove Jr.

Earl Christian Hargrove Jr., owner of Shenandoah Caverns in New Market since 1966, is remembered locally as a man who wanted to make people smile.

Shenandoah Caverns General Manager Joe Proctor said his family and the Hargroves have been close since Hargrove purchased the caverns.

“When Mr. Hargrove bought the caverns, he and my father, Dan Proctor, who was the general manager then, became instant friends,” he said. “It’s a sad day for me, because he was close enough to be family … my middle name is Earl, I was named after him.”

Hargrove, who lived in Easton, Maryland, died Monday at age 86.

Hargrove had been an entrepreneur since decorating window displays in Washington, D.C., in the years following World War II. He was asked to build parade floats for President Harry S. Truman’s inauguration. His company, Hargrove Displays Inc., went on to manufacture floats for every inauguration since, as well as providing decoration services for the National Christmas Tree Lighting since 1955.

Proctor said Hargrove fell in love with Shenandoah Caverns when he was vacationing in the area with his family. He said Hargrove bought the caverns so he could share the enjoyment his family had.

“Mr. Hargrove loved seeing people smile,” Proctor said. “It brought him great joy to know people were visiting the caverns and having a happy experience and a good time.”

Hargrove expanded the attractions at the caverns, including America on Parade, which features 30 floats he entered into various inauguration parades for over half a century. The latest attraction, the Yellow Barn, was built in 2007 and showcases agricultural equipment.

Proctor said up until his last days, Hargrove stayed highly involved in the business.

“He’d come down from his home in Maryland to visit the caverns about every other month,” he said. “But he called every day to see how business was doing … he was the kind of man who was constantly looking for ways to improve things, make things better.”

Proctor added, “When we built the Yellow Barn, Mr. Hargrove was down here quite often … you could say he kept a pretty good eye on us.”

Proctor said while he and his family are mournful of Hargrove’s death, they will try to carry on the legacy he left with Shenandoah Caverns.

“The caverns are still in good hands and we are looking forward to our 100th anniversary in business in 2022,” he said. “The Hargrove family will retain ownership of the caverns and the transition should be seamless.”

According to his obituary notice at http://tiny.cc/fmmswx, a celebration of life will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. James’ Church, 5757 Solomons Island Road, Lothian, MD 20711.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com