As a police reporter, Joe was involved in covering many of the dramatic news stories of his day. He worked out of historic Room 619 on the sixth floor of City Hall, when police headquarters was there. He won a Keystone Award from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishers Association in spot news for his report of a dramatic Rittenhouse Square bank holdup.
He won a Fraternal Order of Police Award for best police story, about the murder of warden Patrick N. Curran and his deputy, Robert F. Fromhold, at Holmesburg Prison in 1973. He dictated the story to a rewriteman on deadline.
One story he declined was an opportunity to stand on the rim of Billy Penn's hat atop City Hall, as somebody's idea of a gag, and pee on the street below.
"Not that I wouldn't have enjoyed the feat of urinating on the populace," Joe once wrote, "but the thought of standing near the edge of the brim of William Penn's hat, scared the living hell out of me."
However, he overcame his fear of heights long enough to ride on the Fire Department's first cherry-picker, up to the 10th floor of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel.
After Joe got himself out of a serious drinking problem in 1961, he resolved to help other alcoholics. He founded an Alcoholics Anonymous chapter at the Bulletin, and worked with Frank Rizzo, first when he was police commissioner and later mayor, to set up AA chapters in city government and the police and fire departments.
Joe grew up around 22nd Street and Lehigh Avenue in North Philadelphia. He came from a long line of coal miners.
Joe graduated from Roman Catholic High School in 1941, then entered the Army. He fought with the 474th Anti-Aircraft Battalion from Normandy till VE Day, May 8, 1945. The unit fought through northern France, Ardennes-Alsace (Battle of the Bulge), Rhineland and central Europe. He spoke of being present for the liberation of Paris, and riding in an armored column along the Meuse, "liberating town after town."
"As the tanks, half tracks and Jeeps of the American Army came into a town, a party engulfed the entire town. The people were free," he once wrote.
After the war, Joe received an economics degree from Villanova University. He started at the Bulletin in 1954.
A devout Catholic, Joe was proud of rarely missing Mass. Once was during the Battle of the Bulge when conditions were a bit too hairy for religious rites, and another during a blizzard in Philadelphia in 1993, when Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua absolved Catholics from attending Mass.
As a feature writer, Joe said he liked to write about the "little people — people who would otherwise be anonymous, except that they die in a fire or an accident, or a feature writer shines the light on them for a moment.
“Sometimes I would meet them at a later date and my small story would be in a frame on the wall."
Joe was married to the former Josephine Quinn, an Army nurse with three battle stars from Korea. She died in 2001.
He is survived by two sons, Joseph P. Jr. and Anthony; a daughter, Jo Ellen Keating, and three grandchildren.
Services: Funeral Mass 11 a.m. Friday at St. Denis Church, Eagle Road and St. Denis Lane. Friends may call at 7 p.m. Thursday and 9:30 a.m. Friday at the Stretch Funeral Home, 236 E. Eagle Road, Havertown. Burial will be in St. Denis Cemetery. n
Contact John F. Morrison at 215-854-5573 or email@example.com.