Ridgefield native and first U-Haul employee Hap Carty dies at 95


U-Haul’s first employee and a member of a well-known Ridgefield family, William E. “Hap” Carty, died at the age of 95 in Tempe, Arizona, on June 24, the company announced.

Hap Carty — so nicknamed because of his happy disposition as a child — held a number of leadership positions within U-Haul and its related companies, including as the U-Haul International chairman of the board. Carty worked for U-Haul nearly since the business’ outset in 1945. He retired in 1988, though he served on company boards until 2006.

Born in 1927, Hap Carty worked on the Carty family ranch, as well as shipyards and lumber mills during his high school years. After graduating from Ridgefield High School in 1945, he joined the U.S. Army where he was assigned at Fort Riley, Kansas, as World War II came to a close.

While on leave in 1945, Hap Carty helped build the first 10 trailers for U-Haul in an old milk house on the Carty ranch. The house was converted into a welding and carpentry shop by his brother-in-law and company co-founder L.S. “Sam” Shoen.

After an honorable discharge from the Army in 1946, Hap Carty effectively became U-Haul’s first employee. Early on, Hap Carty lived with his sister, Ann Mary Carty Shoen, and brother-in-law. He was present for the nightly discussions at dinner on how to build the company, said his son Pat Carty.

Shortly after Hap Carty married his wife, Toni, Shoen sent him to Boston to start growing the business on the East Coast in the early 1950s. Early on during the Boston endeavor, Hap Carty and his growing family lived in the shop, which didn’t have bedrooms. They only had a hot plate to cook on, his son said.

Hap Carty would take some of the money from each paycheck to buy lumber and drywall as he slowly built a living space at the first shop.

“(The shop) looked more like a village blacksmith shop, complete with hearth, hammer and anvil,” Hap Carty said in an article from U-Haul announcing his death.

Hap Carty was eventually able to buy a house in Boston, his son said. The family then moved to Pennsylvania to start a manufacturing operation for U-Haul.

Hap Carty took night classes at Penn State University, using what he learned to help U-Haul grow, his son said.

“Hap was good at taking in information and using it in a lot of different ways. He was always extremely bright,” Pat Carty said.

Hap Carty moved to Tempe, Arizona, where he opened the U-Haul Technical Center in 1970. He ran that facility, which still manufactures trailers and truck boxes, for the company.

Over the years, Hap Carty had a variety of titles, including U-Haul field director for eastern states, marketing director and president of company subsidiary Kar-Go International, the article stated.

“U-Haul would not exist today but for Hap,” U-Haul CEO and son of company founders Joe Shoen stated in U-Haul’s article.

He mentioned Hap Carty had a hand in designing medium-duty trucks which “revolutionized do-it-yourself moving.”

Pat Carty said aviation was an important element to his father’s business operations. His father bought his first plane for $500 and learned to fly in it. Pat Carty said his father flew the plane to Ridgefield often, landing on a ridge near the family ranch.

“I flew a lot with my dad, and I’ve never flown before with somebody who had such control of an aircraft as that guy did,” Pat Carty said.

With business happening across the country, both Hap Carty and Shoen relied on air travel heavily, Pat Carty said.

“The plane was a tool. It allowed Hap and (Shoen) to move the company and grow the company far quicker, and far more efficiently than they ever could have,” Pat Carty said.

Pat Carty said his father put a premium on having a good “supporting cast” in business endeavors.

“Hap grew up on a farm, so he knew from the very beginning that everybody had to work every day and do their job to be successful,” Pat Carty said.

Pat Carty said his father’s collaborative approach and his ability to assess people’s work ethic played a role in his tenure with the company.

“In my dad’s eyes, he wasn’t some legend. … He was just one person with a really good group of people with the same objective, integrity, loyalty and hard work. He always knew that success was dependent on all of them,” Pat Carty said.

Though dedicated, he said his father knew how to lighten the mood so the people he was surrounded by could have fun while achieving their goals.

“His goal in life was for everybody around him to be happy and successful. That was really him,” Pat Carty said. “He was still being a wise guy an hour before he died.”


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