PETE JOYCE, Community Leader & Isaly’s Owner
by Ann Angel Eberhardt
One thing that always reminds me of Pete Joyce from the 1950s is chicken noodle soup.
“And what are we having for lunch today?” asked the tall waiter in a white apron as he advanced from behind the counter holding a receipt pad and pencil. “Chicken noodle soup, please!” answered one of the two children seated in the store’s red upholstered booth. It was the same question and the same answer each weekday for four months.
The waiter chose two small cans labeled Heinz’s Chicken Noodle Soup from a shelf, then heated and served this warm and savory lunch along with packets of crisp soda crackers. The children were my brother Mike and myself. (My nine-year-old reasoning was that if we tried any other soup, we may not like it and then go hungry for the rest of the afternoon.) We paid 15 cents for each bowl. The patient and accommodating waiter was Pete Joyce, owner of Isaly’s Dairy on the corner of Main and Third streets, Sharpsville, PA.
This daily routine was occurring in the fall of 1949, during a time when my family was preparing to move about six miles from Wheatland to Sharpsville. Because the remodeling of our new Second Street home and printshop wasn’t completed by September, my parents thought my brother and I should begin the 1949-1950 school year at Robison School in Sharpsville in any case. That meant that we had to commute by public bus (including transfer to a second bus on State Street in Sharon) to attend fourth (my brother) and fifth grades with a break for lunch, ours being at Isaly’s. After school we would meet my dad, who ran a printshop on Walnut Street, and the three of us would return to Wheatland. This commute lasted until we finally moved into our new residence just before Christmas.
There were a few other direct connections between my family and Mr. Joyce that I can recall. Approximately six years later, Pete Joyce, by then a former burgess and now councilman, swore in three new members of the Sharpsville Council. One of those members was August Angel, my dad.
[Above: THREE NEW COUNCILMEN FOR SHARPSVILLE — Three men joined Sharpsville’s seven-member borough council last night, when Burgess Peter Joyce, second from left, administered the oath of office to G. Raymond Hittle, D., Clair Osborne, D., and August Angel, R. (hands upraised, left to right). They will serve four-year terms. Looking on at left is the new council president, Maurice Nelson, D. Source: The Sharon (Pa.) Herald, January 4, 1956, p. 12.]
In 1961, Pete Joyce and my dad, “two veteran Sharpsville political personalities,” according to a Sharon Herald article, were unopposed for their party’s nomination for burgess at the May primary elections. Pete Joyce, a Democrat, won the election in November, replacing the retiring Burgess George D. Mahaney.
Throughout our years in Sharpsville my family continued to shop at Isaly’s, purchasing such items as milk and cream and Isaly’s iconic skyscraper cones, chipped chopped ham, Klondikes and half-gallon brick-shaped ice cream in delicious flavors such as Neapolitan (layers of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry) and White House Cherry (vanilla mixed with Maraschino cherries). Mr. Joyce wasn’t always the waiter since he hired young teens to help out.
My younger brother, Pat, recalls that the first hamburger he ever ate was at Isaly’s. Pat says he can still see Pete Joyce in a white waiter’s hat and apron serving him a sizzling patty of ground beef between slices of a round white bun with a dill pickle on the side and squeeze bottles of ketchup and mustard for the taking. The cost of the hamburger was 25 cents.
[Above: This Canonsburg, PA, 1950 Isaly’s store-front looks very much like Sharpsville’s Isaly’s in the 1950s. Source: Brian Butko’s The Story of Isaly’s: Klondikes, Chipped Ham, & Skyscraper Cones, Stackpole Books, 2001.]
I seldom eat canned chicken noodle soup these days except as my comfort food when I have a bad cold. But the chicken-broth odor and salty taste of that soup still bring to mind Isaly’s and Pete Joyce, the man who was mayor of Sharpsville in the 1950s and 60s.
Pete Joyce: SERVICES AND HONORS
All the while that Pete Joyce owned and operated Isaly’s, an early type of convenience store that provided the community with deli and dairy products, magazines and comic books, and other everyday items, he also tirelessly served in a variety of political, governmental, civil and church endeavors.
After graduation from Sharpsville High School in 1929, he attended the former Shenango Valley Commercial Institute in Sharon, PA. He first entered politics when serving on the Sharpsville Area School Board in 1940, while, according to the 1940 U.S. Census, he was an A&P store manager.
His first and second terms on the board were interrupted by World War II. Joyce enlisted in the U.S. Army on January 28, 1942, and served four years as a captain of the Army Truck Company 3891 and was awarded the Bronze Star.
After his war years, Joyce was councilman and mayor of Sharpsville for numerous terms, ending his political career as Mercer County Commissioner. According to The Herald, March 22, 2001,
He followed [his military service] with 18 years as a borough official, including terms as burgess and then mayor from 1953 through 1957 and 1961 through 1969. Joyce also was elected in 1958 and again in 1976 as county commissioner. In 1962 he came within 3,000 votes of being elected to Congress.“Sharpsville: Hibernians tap Joyce for honor.” The (Sharon) Herald, March 22, 2001
Joyce was a member of many other boards throughout the years. He was a board member of Catholic Charities (for 50 years); the former McDowell Bank (now National City); the Buhl Trustees; Mercer County Board of Elections; and chairman of the board of the Mercer County Area Agency on Aging Inc. He was a member of the Catholic Social Service Club for many years and president of its advisory board.
He initiated the formation of a pension fund for borough employees and donated his own salary to it. He led efforts that resulted in the establishment of the Mercer County Regional Council of Governments and the Shenango Valley Regional Planning Commission (now Mercer County Regional Planning Commission). He also belonged to the Pennsylvania Economy League. In 1973 he was appointed regional municipal services officer for PennDOT.
His participation in many other philanthropic and service organizations included a 40-year membership with the Sharpsville Service Club and its past president, chair of the Community Chest (now United Way), as well as a member of the Pennsylvania Economic League. Mr. Joyce was a fundraiser for Kennedy Christian High School in Hermitage, PA, which was established in 1964 and since 2001 is known as Kennedy Catholic High School.
He was a lifelong member of St. Bartholomew Church in Sharpsville where he was a Confraternity of Christian Doctrine teacher of young people. He eventually became the church’s oldest male parishioner. In addition, he served as president of the former Mercer County Holy Name Society.
As a member of the Mercer County Historical Society, Joyce was respected for his knowledge of Mercer County history and genealogy. According to his obituary in The Herald,
He was fascinated by history, especially of the local area, Thomas Jefferson and the Civil War. He often acted as a source of information for others with similar interests.“Pete Joyce” Obituary. The (Sharon) Herald, March 22, 2006
Pete Joyce was named “Man of the Year” by Shenango Valley Jaycees and Shenango Valley Junior Chamber of Commerce. In 1977, he was named outstanding Democrat of the year by Reynolds Area 2 Democrats. The date of February 2, 1980, was declared “Peter J. Joyce Day” by local mayors. These and many other tributes show the high esteem that the community held for a man who had a vivid sense of duty to his church, community and country and an indefatigable love of work!
Pete Joyce: FAMILY BACKGROUND
According to the U.S. Censuses, Joyce’s grandparents, Peter M. Joyce (c.1868-1940) and Nora Murray Joyce (c.1865-1950) immigrated from Ireland in c. 1893 and were among many who were attracted to Pennsylvania by opportunities for work in the steel mills and on the railroads.
Pete Joyce was born in Sharpsville on April 11 1911, the youngest of six children: Bridget, Mary (1901-1981), Patrick J. (1903-1979), Norah (Nora? 1906-1918), Catharine F. (1909-2002), and Peter (1911-2006).
The 1920, 1930 and 1940 U.S. Censuses record the family as living on Walnut Street in Sharpsville, next door to the Biggins family whose recent ancestors were also from Ireland. James A., one of the Biggins children and close to Pete Joyce’s age, became one of Sharpsville’s well-known and fondly remembered medical doctors. Next door to the Biggins lived George F. Mahaney and his family. George F. was the son of George D. Mahaney, a longtime Sharpsville burgess who was succeeded by Joyce in 1961.
On May 5, 1943, Pete Joyce married Madeline Lucille (O’Connor). They had two daughters, Madeline and Patricia, and a son, Thomas P. Joyce.
Peter (“Pete”) J. Joyce died on March 17, 2006, at the age of 94, and was buried in Saint Mary’s Cemetery in Heritage, PA, where he joined other deceased Joyce family members, including his wife Madeline who died in 2000 at the age of 88.
— Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ.
Butko, Brian. Klondikes, Chipped Ham & Skyscraper Cones: The Story of Isaly’s. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2001. Print.
“Find A Grave Index,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVL2-WH8Q : accessed 16 January 2020), Peter J. Joyce, ; Burial, Hermitage, Mercer, Pennsylvania, Saint Marys Cemetery; citing record ID 97764525, Find a Grave, http://www.findagrave.com. Internet resource.
“PETE JOYCE (Peter J. Joyce 1911-2006).” Obituary in The (Sharon) Herald, Mar 22, 2006.
“SHARPSVILLE: Hibernians tap Joyce for honor.” The (Sharon) Herald, March 22, 2001.
“United States Census, 1920,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M6YJ-T4Y : accessed 16 January 2020), Peter Joyce in household of Peter Joyce, Hickory, Mercer, Pennsylvania, United States; citing ED 88, sheet 14A, line 22, family 284, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992). Internet resource.
“United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9RZX-977?cc=1810731&wc=QZFW-ZW7%3A649490601%2C649589501%2C650224201%2C1589282491 : accessed 16 January 2020), Pennsylvania > Mercer > Sharpsville > ED 72 > image 30 of 34; citing NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002). Internet resource.
“United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KQCK-8CC : accessed 16 January 2020), Peter J Joyce in household of Peter M Joyce, Ward 2, Sharpsville, Sharpsville Borough, Mercer, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 43-83, sheet 4A, line 16, family 60 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration). Internet resource.