Here’s a bittersweet story for you: The beach town of Madison, Connecticut lost an icon this week. Joe Barbato, a.k.a Papa Joe, a.k.a. The Good Humor Man, passed away on Tuesday, at the age of 89. He spent 25 years serving summertime desserts from a mobile shop, and the Long Island Sound won’t be the same without him. Pour out some hot fudge for Papa Joe.
Papa Joe lived quite a life, according to his obituary. He grew up in nearby New Haven, was a star athlete in high school, and played for the Detroit Tigers AAA affiliate team before serving in the army. He worked in insurance for more than 20 years before, at the age of 62, he decided that he wanted to be the Good Humor Man for Madison, Connecticut. And if there’s anything that old New England beach towns take seriously, it’s ice cream. Papa Joe was beloved by the community, which nicknamed him “the Santa Claus of Summer.” This is so deeply cute it simply breaks my heart.
“He gave away a lot of free ice cream,” Papa Joe’s son, Joseph, told NBC Connecticut. “I don’t know if I would have run my business like him.” I’m going to assume Little Joe said this in a loving tone. For Papa Joe, it was all about goofing around with the kids. What a delightful way to spend one’s later years.
So while it might be February and summertime seems a world away, lick a cone in honor of Papa Joe this weekend. And while you’re at it, get some inspiration from our fantasy ice cream toppings draft and get your paws on some Magic Shell.