‘Happy Joe’ Whitty died Tuesday at 82

‘Happy Joe’ Whitty, the founder of Happy Joe’s Pizza, died Tuesday morning at 82 years of age.

'Happy Joe' Whitty, the founder of Happy Joe's Pizza, died Tuesday morning.

His family tells News 8 that he died of natural causes at the age of 82.

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 said to News 8 about last year's party. "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.

The family will announce a celebration of life in the near future. They say the public will be invited to honor and remember Joe Whitty.

The Happy Joe's Kids Foundation will host a "lady's lunch" on November 8th.

The event will raise money to purchase special robots that allow children attend school and events that they wouldn't otherwise be able to attend due to illness or disorder.

That event will be held at the Waterfront Convention Center. You can register for that event, or donate to the foundation, by visiting HJKids.Org.

This story will be updated.