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One name, one house, one home

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The introductions at Joe White's house can get a little confusing.

"Hi, I'm Joe," he says, "and this is my new son, Joe."

As Joe snuggles baby Joe, his father steps forward and extends a hand.

"Nice to meet you. I'm Joe," he says.

Finally, the last man in the group speaks up. "Bet you can't guess who I am," he says. "I'm Joe. But you can call me Joe Sr."

And what about Joe Sr.'s father? Was his name Joe, too?

Joe Sr. smiles. "No," he says. "His name was Alfred."

Poor Alfred White didn't know what was he was missing, going through life as "Alfie" instead of "Joe." If he could see what he started 75 years ago, he would certainly be tickled: Four generations of Joes, each born 25 years apart and each raising his namesake in the little two-bedroom house that Alfred built for $1,000 in 1906.

Joe Richard White III is the latest Joe to bring up a Joe in the Poplar Grove cottage on Salt Lake City's west side.

He invited me to share a Free Lunch of Hawaiian pizza with his father and grandfather to share the story of the four Joes and the importance of honoring family traditions.

"Believe it or not, my wife, Liz, and I toyed with the idea of breaking the Joe tradition," says Joe III, "but then we decided the odds of having four generations born in the same house were pretty rare."

"So Elizabeth came up with a cute idea," says Joe Sr. "She said, 'How about Joe?' "

Joe Richard White IV is only 3 months old, but imagine the pressure he'll feel 25 years from now when his first son is born.

"Nah, I wouldn't do that to him," says Joe III. "But he'll find out for himself that it's a lot of fun being a Joe."

The family's first Joe has pleasant memories of growing up in the Poplar Grove cottage, even though there was no plumbing for many years and he had to take turns sleeping in the second bedroom with his six siblings.

"Whoever yelled loudest out of the girls or the boys got the bedroom," says Joe Sr., "and the rest of us would sleep in the living room. It was crowded, but we were close. I feel very lucky to have grown up the way I did."

Joe II spent the first few years of his life in the house, until Joe Sr. bought another home around the corner. "I came over here all the time to help with the garden," recalls Joe II, who also used to drag State Street with his grandmother. "Grandma would call out the window, 'Joe! Oh, Joe!' and I'd come running."

Later, after Joe II married, he moved back into the house to raise three of his eight children, including Joe III. He and his son share more than the same name: They also work as firefighters at Station No. 73 in West Valley City.

After Joe III married, "it seemed only natural for him to move into the house," says Joe Sr., who owns the property.

"I sure wouldn't want to mess with tradition," says Joe III. Although the house is small, "you can feel the memories when you walk through the front door," he says. "There's a lot of love in this house."

Many young people today wouldn't dream of living in the same small house that their grandfather or father grew up in, notes Joe II. "Everybody wants something bigger and better — the close-knittedness isn't there with a lot of families today," he says.

Not so with the White clan. They're the first to admit they're not your average Joes.


Have a story? Let's hear it over lunch. E-mail your name, phone number and what's on your mind to freelunch@desnews.com or send a fax to 801-466-2851. You can also write me at the Deseret News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, UT 84110.