‘Happy Joe’ Whitty, the founder of Happy Joe’s Pizza, died Tuesday morning.
He was 82 years old.
Joe Whitty started the Happy Joe’s franchise in the Village of East Davenport in 1972, according to the Happy Joe’s website. Since then, the company has grown to 45 locations in six states throughout the Midwest.
Happy Joe’s hosted an annual Christmas pizza party for special needs children since the first year it opened, providing free entertainment for hundreds of kids throughout the region.
“These are our favorite days of the year,” Whitty told WQAD. “Many of these kids have grown up coming to our parties, and for some, it will be a brand new experience. We love seeing their smiling faces.”
Born in Minot, North Dakota on Sept. 10, 1937, Whitty was an entrepreneur from an early age leasing a drive-in restaurant when he was 18-years-old. He moved to Davenport, Iowa in 1966 to take a job at a bakery.