"Remember Joe with happiness."
These words, this advice, can be found on the webpage of the foundation formed by Happy Joe Whitty and his family.
We can think of no better way to memorialize the man whose business, whose philanthropy, whose love of life and compassion have meant so much to the Quad-Cities.
Whitty, founder of the Happy Joe's Pizza and Ice Cream chain, died on Oct. 29. His funeral is today.
There also will be a celebration of his life today at Jumer's Casino and Hotel, beginning at 4 p.m. Fittingly, free pizza will be served.
Over the past week, we have heard people in our community remember this man whose entrepreneurial talents grew a small pizza parlor in the Village of East Davenport into a chain that, at its peak, had 100 stores across the country and even overseas; whose creativity gave us the taco pizza and the Jungle Bungle near NorthPark Mall.
You would be hard-pressed to find a Quad-Citian who hasn't celebrated a birthday — either their own, a child's or grandchild's — at one of Happy Joe's places.
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Parties were a specialty of his.
Nobody probably knows this better than Quad-Citians with special needs and their families.
For decades, Happy Joe has been throwing the community's biggest party for kids with special needs. It's gotten so big it now requires an arena, the TaxSlayer Center, to hold it. In 2018, the party attracted more than 1,000 people.
For some kids, it's something they look forward to every year. But the party is merely the most visible contribution Happy Joe has made to people with disabilities. In an article last week, Times reporter Alma Gaul quoted Jeff Ashcraft, president of the Handicapped Development Center, saying Whitty's "impact on people with disabilities is unmatched."
Every community needs people like Happy Joe Whitty, who lend us their talents but also their benevolence, who give of themselves so that others can better share life’s happiness.
The Whitty family foundation noted on its webpage that Happy Joe's work in this life is now complete.
We are fortunate to have been the beneficiaries.