DAVENPORT — Donna (Herbers) Schwab remembers the very beginning with Joe Whitty as Happy Joe’s began. She served as Joe Whitty’s personal secretary for the pizza chain from the beginning in 1972.
Friday nights at the original Happy Joe’s in the Village of East Davenport got so big her husband, Merle Herbers, and other men, would go pour beer.
“Our husbands would go every Friday night and help pour the beer because he didn’t hire enough kids old enough to pour the beer,” Schwab, 89, said.
His death Tuesday, saddened her but did not surprise her as she knew Whitty had been ill.
She recalled the man she worked for from 1972-1985, and knew previously from their families’ friendship at Holy Family Catholic Church in Davenport.
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“He was very kind and was very easy going,” she said. “He was concerned about everybody, those that had a lot of means and those that did not.”
Success did not change him. “I don’t think it did,” she said. “He just kept an even course.”
The pizza parlor, also known for its ice cream sundaes and floats and the celebration of birthdays with the loud horn helping call attention to the honoree, became a regional chain, with franchises in six states.
The kid was still alive in Happy Joe Whitty, Schwabe said. “He was a very giving person,” she said.
His charitable work, through the Happy Joe's Kids Foundation, did not surprise her, either. “That was his nature,” Schwab said. “That was the way he was probably trained and lived his life.”