Delaware County Daily Times Executive Editor Joseph Hart died Tuesday at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby after suffering a stroke. He was 60 years old.
Born in Methodist Hospital in Philadelphia on Feb. 2, 1962, I have loved being a Groundhog Day baby. Five years ago, he and his sister, Rosemary, traveled to Punxsutawney for the annual Groundhog Day celebration.
Hart was editor of both the newspapers at Cardinal O’Hara High School and West Chester University.
Forty years ago, Linda DeMeglio was the managing editor of the Delaware County Daily Times, when she hired him as an intern.
“I hired Joe Hart as an intern and he became a reporter and a very fine reporter,” she said. “When the MOVE trials were going on and the Philadelphia papers were on strike, Joe Hart carried that story for everyone in the region. He was a fine reporter and became a fine editor.”
“From the moment Joe entered the newsroom as an intern reporter, he was a force to be reckoned with,” said Patti Mengers, who was a Daily Times staff writer for nearly 41 years. “At barely 20 years old, I have understood the responsibilities and the power of the press, and I have loved every moment of being part of it. But what I’ll miss most about him is his wit and kindness.
“He just rose from the ranks,” said retired Daily Times reporter Marlene DiGiacomo. “He was a young kid when he came to work at the Daily Times.”
Retired Daily Times Executive Editor Philip Heron recalled Hart’s stellar work, including the MOVE proceedings.
“Everyone followed the stories on those hearings,” Heron said. “He always knocked it out of park.”
Heron also recalled Hart joining the newspaper’s staff as an intern while still attending college at West Chester University.
“Part of the time, he was in Harrisburg and worked with Hal Ellis,” he said of the time when the Daily Times had a Harrisburg bureau.
Hart returned to the Delaware County offices, then in the Cousins section of Upper Darby, and became the lead county and political reporter, winning a multitude of awards for his work.
“He loved journalism,” recalled former Daily Times Features Editor Trish Cofiell. “But what I remember is when he wrote his column about him at the courthouse – the political underpinnings of the courthouse – and he was a pit bull on that. I have told some classic stories there. He really knew how to dig into things. It’s just too sad.”
His love for the Daily Times and the newspaper business was evident as he kept his original 1980’s press pass, where he’s seen in a black-and-white profile photograph, sporting a contemporary permed hairstyle.
“The institutional knowledge Joe had of the county, you can’t replace that,” Heron said. “He was the walking encyclopedia of Delco politics.”
About 25 years ago, Hart was asked to become one of the newspaper’s two city editors. Approximately five years later, he was promoted to Associate Editor.
“I don’t think I saw him lose his temper in all the time I worked there and that was strange for an editor,” said DiGiacomo. “He was just very professional in dealing with his employees. I would call at the strangest times and he was always ready to take the story or handle anything he had. He always had a joke for you or something if you were doing a story. He was just a good editor and a good person.”
Longtime Daily Times columnist Gil Spencer Jr. said Hart was aptly named, giving all he had to the business.
“There were a ton of things we disagreed about politically – and we would go head to head at editorial board endorsements and that kind of thing – but he was a principled guy,” said Spencer. “He was a real newspaper guy and he loved the business, and in that regard he reminded me of my dad (newspaper editor Gil Spencer Sr.). He lived and breathed it, and he took it seriously, and he will be missed, I have no doubt, by his staff of him and the people of Delaware County. ”
Hart became Executive Editor of the paper after Heron retired in April 2020.
“Joe’s news judgment was always on the money,” Heron said. “You couple that with his knowledge of Delaware County. He was just indispensable.”
Former Daily Times police reporter Rose Quinn shared her thoughts on working with Hart.
“I look back and I feel like Joe and I grew up in the newsroom,” she said. “When it came to pounding out a story on deadline, he was the king. It was awesome to watch. I admired him as a colleague. Even more, I loved him as my friend.”
Hart also was a dotting uncle and great-uncle, a world traveler and a collector of celebrity autographs.
He had an inexhaustible knowledge of Dark Shadows and the Titanic.
Hart is survived by two sisters, Jeanne M. Hart Schatzman and Rosemary Hart; his niece, Megan Schatzman; his nephew of him, Thomas Schatzman; his grandnieces, Lily Rose and Emily Grace; and two kitties he rescued, Gavin and Kara.
Arrangements are pending.