Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the last interview I had the opportunity to do face-to-face was in March. In upcoming weeks, one of the 126 weekly interviews that were previously published will be shared with readers. This article was originally published on Sept. 2, 2018.
The seven Wilt children grew up in a small house on Second Avenue near Nutt Road in Phoenixville. The three boys and four girls are the children of Phyllis and Robert Wilt. Joe is number six of this close family.
The small house I mentioned consisted of three bedrooms and one bath. One bedroom for the boys, one bedroom for the girls and the parent’s bedroom, where the baby of the family stayed until they were about 2 years old.
The entire Wilt family consists of seven kids, spouses, 14 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren. In 1986, the youngest Wilt sibling, Charlene, was killed in an automobile accident in her senior year of high school. This tragic accident is still felt by the family. Phyllis and Bob have been married for 66 years.
Joe started to work summers at the nearby Morris Cemetery. His two brothers and one sister worked there as well. After high school, he went to work at Ardes’ Pontiac Showroom for eight years. Looking for a job change he went to work at Earth’s Corner Jewelers under the mentorship of Joe Varady and his wife Gerry. As the manager, he did it all from designing and repairing jewelry, sales and maintaining the store. This often-included steam cleaning carpets, replacing ballasts, and even installing a kitchen in the shop. He stated that “no job is beneath him” if you want to run a successful business.
Seven years ago, when Earth Corner closed its doors, he went to Phoenixville Federal Bank & Trust as its property coordinator for all the branches.
Joe’s greatest job is that of “father” to his two children. Rebecca, known as Becca, is 18 and Matthew age 11. In 2012 his wife Patti was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig disease) and left this earth within a year, just two days shy of their 25th wedding anniversary.
Joe Wilt and Patti Owens were married in 1987. From their first date, Joe knew that she was a keeper. From the beginning, they wanted to start a family. After 13 years with no luck and several miscarriages, they considered adoption. Without warning, along came Becca, and seven years later, Matthew.
When not working Joe focuses his attentions on the kids. They really enjoy each other’s company and spend a lot of time together. At home or away there is usually something special planned each week if not more. Trips to Disney World, New York and Philadelphia top their list. Joe is a great photographer and likes taking pictures of their outings and is big on selfies. Becca’s boyfriend Blake has happily joined the threesome.
Joe has a longtime interest in steamships with a large collection of items especially from 1900-1930.
Joe enjoys cooking good meals for his kids throughout the week, but also taking a welcome break when they are out on a weekend adventure. These breaks often inspire new creations to make at home.
Being a single dad, things need to be simple to prepare yet tasty and nutritious too. Since pasta is always a favorite for all ages, it’s often on the menu. It’s also a great way to use many ingredients already on hand, especially in the summer with all of the fresh produce.
JOE’S PASTA FAVORITE
While cooking your pasta of choice, heat a large frying pan with a little olive oil. Add in ingredients like steamed shrimp, quartered cherry tomatoes, freshly chopped garlic and baby spinach. Add a touch of seasonings to suit your taste, like pepper, cumin, and paprika. Sautee on medium heat until cooked through, then serve over drained pasta. Top with some parmesan.
Serve with a fresh garden salad or even some freshly sliced garden tomatoes with a drizzle of balsamic, topped with feta cheese.
UPDATE: In 2018, Joe's creativity was sparked with the opportunity to document, through photography, the renovation and restoration of the Byrne Mansion, which now is home to R Strunk Funeral Home. As a result of his newfound passion, JWILTPHOTOGRAPHY was established. He has had several shows locally, with his work currently on display in the lobby at Phoenix Village, in downtown Phoenixville.