Joe Kimmel was a longtime Radnor Township resident and contributor to Radnor’s political landscape. He died last week at his home in Villanova.
Born in Toledo, Ohio and raised in the Pittsburgh area, Joe came east in 1940 to attend Swarthmore College, where on the first day he met the woman who would become his wife.
On Monday I met with Betty in the home that she and Joe shared for more than 50 years. She told me how he found the then-“wild” piece of land, convinced her to move there, and built a tennis court on it before he even fixed up the house, which was part of a nearby estate.
When they moved in it only had four rooms, Betty said, remembering a hectic but fun time. Joe eventually designed an addition for the house. He installed wood paneling all over and built a bar, among other projects. Betty said she did not know where he got his love of handiwork.
Joe was also an avid tennis player and painter, and loved to travel, especially when the couple had a house in the Bahamas. He traveled extensively while he was a management consultant working for the government in Washington, D.C. At one point he was hired to reorganize the U.S. Postal Service.
At home Joe was always active, and opinionated, in local politics.
“Joe was one of the active participants in the New Look upstart group in the Republican Party in the late 1960s which changed Radnor politics forever,” said Wayne resident Art Lewis. “Joe's involvement in Radnor since then has helped us become as good as we are. We will miss him.”
For years Joe wrote a column in the Suburban and Wayne Times.
Former Radnor Township School District superintendent John DeFlaminis was once the subject of Joe’s scathing columns. It led them to sit down over a bottle of wine, and the two talked for three hours. After that they became fast friends who respected each other’s positions.
“I always admired his courage. He really took on some issues that other people would not touch,” DeFlaminis said, adding that Joe’s motivation was always better schools, government and community.
Joe also had his own television program on Radnor Studio 21 called Political Potpourri. Recently, Joe asked Radnor commissioner John Nagle to take over his show for him, which he did for a time. Nagle said he is going to rename his show to "Joe Kimmel's Political Potpourri with John Nagle" to keep his name alive.
Watch Channel 21 at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 31 for a 30-minute show about Joe.
“Joe stayed current on topics important to our country, our state and our town. He was a person who cared greatly about our community and was always willing to speak his mind where others may have shied away,” Nagle said.
Joe would definitely speak (or write) his mind, not stopping to spare feelings.
“He got feisty about thing he didn’t agree with. He didn’t give in,” Betty said. “He had many friends, and maybe a few enemies.”
Joe died last week peacefully in the home he loved, surrounded by his paintings and the brick floor that he painstakingly re-laid himself.
In addition to Betty, he is survived by his son, Jim. He was predeceased by his son, Jonathan.
A small service took place over the weekend at Radnor Friends Meeting House. A larger memorial is planned for March 2 at 2 p.m. at the meeting house.