Local Lafayette Legend ‘Mr. Joe’ Whittenberg Has Passed Away
If you've ever enjoyed a night out in Lafayette, there's a good chance you've met 'Mr. Joe.'
On my way to work, I was sad to hear that Mr. Joe Whittenberg passed away early this morning after falling ill over the last few weeks. A post from Lafayette nightclub owner and concert promoter George Favaloro confirmed the news I had heard earlier.
Joe Whittenberg was 80 years old at the time of his passing, but for the last 20 years, he's someone that I've seen on a regular basis due to the fact that he was an iconic staple in the Lafayette nightlife scene.
Mr. Joe was a fixture at the door of some of the most iconic hotspots in Lafayette nightlife history. Clubs like The Keg, Nite Caps, Nite Town, and Grant Street Dancehall are just a few of the places where Mr. Joe either took your I.D., stamped your hand, put a wristband on you, or some combination of all three.
With almost 30 years in the industry, Mr. Joe probably stamped your parents' hands too.
My very first DJ gig was on the McKinley street strip at the turn of the century and I can remember getting stopped by this old man as I was walking into the club. I would explain to him that I was the DJ, and after getting a wave of approval from the manager on duty, he would let me in.
I soon learned that the old man had a name, and everyone called him Mr. Joe. Eventually, Mr. Joe learned who I was and I wasn't halted at the door on my way in anymore. As a matter of fact, as years would pass I was privileged enough to share a solid handful of meaningful conversations with Mr. Joe during those slow club nights or when we were all hanging around at the end of the night to get paid.
One of the conversations that have stuck with me for the better part of those two decades was one that I sparked by me asking Mr. Joe why he was still working these late-night gigs instead of enjoying his retirement. You see, Mr. Joe retired from the post office after having a rural route in Breaux Bridge for many years. He would drive one of those cars with the steering wheel on the "wrong side" all the way from Lafayette to deliver his route and what he saw on that route is the reason he was adamant about continuing to work after retirement.
Mr. Joe told me that some of the elderly people on his route would be waiting by their mailboxes daily because his delivery would be the highlight of their day. He told me that they would wake up, drink their coffee, wait for the mail, watch the news, eat dinner, and go to bed. It wasn't their specific actions more than it was the fact that Mr. Joe told me that he noticed how rapidly they aged after retirement.
He didn't want to end up that way, so he stayed busy and always "had a place to be" and "something to do every day." I've carried that story with me for years and it's truly one that I will never forget.
Our condolences go out to Mr. Joe and his family—both immediate and extended. Visitation will be Monday, June 1 from 4 pm-9 pm and Tuesday, June 2 from 8 am-9:30 am with funeral services to be held at St. Edmonds at 10 am.
In the meantime, RIP to a Lafayette legend.