Lumbermens Merchandising Corporation (LMC) celebrated its 75th anniversary during its annual meeting in Salt Lake City last week and honored its recently retired president and CEO, Tony DeCarlo.

John A. Somerville, who succeeded DeCarlo last October, told LMC members that the co-op "will continue to embrace the idea of strength in union" by providing top-level purchasing services that will help the members grow. Somerville said he saw several prospects ahead, including the opportunity "to build upon LMC's excellent reputation and work to have the marketplace see us as an industry leader. LMC will take an industry-leading position with our members by helping them as they expand in their markets with niche programs." He also said he sees LMC becoming a high-profile player in legislative and environmental issues.

LMC gained 13 new dealers in 2009 and now counts 366 stockholders that operate 1,228 locations in almost every state. The strength of that union was evidenced by the fact that representatives from 262 member companies came to the meeting, despite a rough year for dealers; LMC's sales dropped 20% to $1.81 billion, Somerville said, and truckload volume was down 19%.

The 2010 meeting marked the first time that Wayne, Pa.-based LMC has ventured far west to hold its annual gathering. LMC began in the mid-Atlantic States and only began seeking a national presence about 10 years ago. At a gala dinner Friday, LMC honored two of its original 35 members: Cramer's Home Building Centers of East Stroudsburg, Pa.; and J.C. Snavely and Sons, Landisville, Pa.

That same dinner also gave LMC members an opportunity to toast DeCarlo, who joined the co-op in 1977, became president in 1991 and led the organization until last year.

Doug Kuiken, president of Kuiken Brothers Co. in Fair Lawn, N.J., lauded DeCarlo for leading the organization as it made one of its most tumultuous decisions: LMC's decision to require its members to affiliate solely with that group.

"It once again places LMC into a category of its own," Kuiken said. "And that's where we need to be."

LMC staff raised more than $2,350 to be donated in DeCarlo's honor to the Augustinian Defenders of the Rights of the Poor, a charity serving South Philadelphia, where DeCarlo grew up.

As DeCarlo put it: "My story could only happen in America."