BETTENDORF — “Happy Joe” Whitty, 82, the founder of Happy Joe’s Pizza restaurants, died Tuesday morning at the Clarissa C. Cook Hospice, Bettendorf.
Whitty founded the restaurants in the Quad-Cities but expanded throughout the state. The first Waterloo Happy Joe’s came to the Kmart Plaza in the late 1970s. In 1995, Happy Joe’s purchased Shakey’s restaurants on University Avenue in Cedar Falls and Kimball Avenue in Waterloo and moved into those locations.
“He was one of the joys of the Quad-Cities,” said Bill Wundram, longtime Quad-City Times columnist. “He was an entrepreneur and one of my better friends.”
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Whitty was well known for his involvement in the community, including his work with special needs children.
A native of Minot, N.D., Whitty moved to Davenport in 1966 after taking a job at a Super Value bakery. It was while he worked as a supervisor and manager at a pizza shop that he thought about combining pizza and ice cream.
In November 1972 the first Happy Joe’s opened in the village of East Davenport. The restaurant had only been been open a month when Joe started hosting his annual holiday party for kids with special needs.