Joseph Barrett died Sunday, June 17. He was 90. Mr. Barrett was an award winning police reporter for 27 years for the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin and one of the first reporters hired by the respected weekly County Press.
Despite his journalistic achievements which included a Keystone Award from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishers Association in spot news for a report of a Rittenhouse Square bank holdup and a Fraternal Order of Police Award for best police story that concerned the murder of warden Patrick N. Curran and his deputy, Robert F. Fromhold, at Holmesburg Prison in 1973, the subject most dear to his heart was likely his World War II experiences.
He landed on Utah Beach on D-Day as a member of the 474th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion fighting with them through the Battle of the Bulge until the surrender of Germany.
One radio reporter working out of Room 619, City Hall Press Room enjoyed boasting about being the last American to interview Adolph Hitler. Mr. Barrett once quieted him saying “You entered Berlin with a typewriter. I went in with an M1”.
Mr. Barrett liked to tell of an incident that occurred on D-Day when his battalion inadvertently shot down an American P-51 fighter. Barrett said the pilot parachuted to the beach wearing his dress uniform and carrying a bottle of whiskey. He had a date with an English nurse in London that night and was only supposed to make a single pass over the beach and go home.
“He was mad as hell but in our defense we had been told to shoot at anything lower than 1,000 feet”
Mr. Barrett said the beachmaster did arrange for the pilot to get a ride back to England that day.
“He was lucky,” he said. “If he had landed on Omaha Beach, they would have handed him an M1 and put him in the infantry.”
Mr. Barrett was active in Battle of the Bulge organizations.
Mr. Barrett who grew up in his beloved “Swampoodle” near 22nd and Lehigh and old Shibe Park in North Philadelphia was a long-time resident of Havertown where he attended St. Denis Church. He was a devout Catholic and rarely missed Mass citing the Battle of the Bulge and the Blizzard of 1993 as two occasions on which he remembered doing so.
He was active in Alcoholics Anonymous becoming sober in 1961.
He had a degree in economics from Villanova University.
He was the first police reporter hired when the County Press began in September 1982 nine months after the Bulletin’s closing. He held the post for several years.
He was married to the former Josephine Quinn, an Army nurse with three battle stars from Korea. She died in 2001.
He is survived by sons Joseph P. Jr. and Anthony; a daughter, Jo Ellen Keating and grand children Alysa, Kaitlyn, and Samantha.
Viewings will be 7- 9 p.m. Thursday and 9:30-10:30 a.m., Friday at the The Funeral Home of John Stretch, 236 E. Eagle Road, Havertown, Pa. 19083.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated 11 a.m., Friday in St. Denis Church, 2401 St. Denis Lane, Havertown.
Burial will be at St. Denis Cemetery.
Donations in his memory may be made to Southeastern Veterans Center Welfare Fund, c/o Welfare Coordinator 1 Veterans Drive, Spring City, Pa. 19475.