Obituary of Joseph A. Hurley

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Joseph A. Hurley

ca. 1940 - November 2, 2014

The Hampton Union , November 11, 2014

Joseph HurleyST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Joseph A. Hurley III, 74, formerly of Lawrence, Mass. and Hampton, N.H., died Saturday, Nov. 1 at his Florida home.

Joe served in the Air Force, loved boating and fishing on the ocean, and was active in the Hampton Beach local business community for most of his adult life, where many knew him as "The King of Fun.”

Joe was predeceased by his parents, Joseph II and Marion, and his brother, James. He is survived by sons Joseph IV and Jeffrey, Jeffrey’s wife, Dina, granddaughters Maggie, Ella, and Lucy, sister Marion Lyons and her husband, Tom, brother Robert, Robert’s wife, Judith, and nieces Alexis, Dorian, and Jennifer.

SERVICES: Services will be private at the family’s request. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Make-a-Wish Foundation at

Hampton Beach Mourns 'King of Fun'

by Kyle Stucker

The Hampton Union , November 7, 2014

Joe Hurley

HAMPTON — Joe Hurley, Hampton Beach’s "King of Fun," was beloved for his ability to entertain the swimsuit-clad masses with his outrageous stories, most of which Hurley made up on the spot.

In addition to humorous claims and well-intended lies like Hampton Beach being home to the first Kentucky Fried Chicken, the King of Fun also gained a reputation as one of the area’s most compassionate and dedicated icons.

Hurley, 74, passed away unexpectedly Sunday in Florida. The days since have been filled with much sadness for those accustomed to only positivity and humor from the man.

"I never saw Joe angry," said Doc Noel, a close friend and president of the Hampton Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. "He was always laughing. He was always jovial. I honestly don’t remember him being mad or upset."

Hurley is known by many as the official voice of the Hampton Beach Master Sand Sculpting Competition. His passion for the widely popular annual event and the community as a whole was always readily apparent to locals and tourists as Hurley cracked jokes over his portable loudspeaker during his commentary on the sculptors’ work.

Others know him as the former food and beverage manager at the Ashworth By The Sea Hotel, where he worked for 27 years. Hurley was also involved with the town in so many other roles over the years that Police Chief Rich Sawyer said it’s "hard to keep track of them."

"Joe was one of those legendary guys who you got to know when you came to Hampton Beach," said Sawyer. "He was just one of those amazing people we have down here who make the beach what it is."

Sawyer credited Hurley with being an "innovative" person who always "tried to keep up" with changing interests at the beach, although one of Hurley’s favorite factual stories revolves around the time he almost stopped the sand sculpting competition from even getting started.

When competition founder Greg Grady pitched the idea to Hurley in 1999, Hurley thought it was ridiculous and told Grady to get lost because the annual Hampton Beach Children’s Festival already had opportunities for children to build sandcastles.

It wasn’t until Hurley saw Grady’s work in person that he realized he completely misunderstood Grady’s intentions. The now-prestigious national competition quickly took shape from there thanks to the work of Grady, Hurley and Robert Houle, the chamber’s former marketing director.

If not for Grady’s persistence and Hurley’s eventual interest, locals, competitors and fans would’ve missed out on a number of memorable sand sculpting moments.

One such moment occurred this summer when Hurley surprised Noel by bringing him onstage to be "knighted" as a member of the "sand table."

"I had no idea what he was doing," Noel said with a big laugh. "He dressed up as a knight with a sword and did the whole bloody thing on stage... Here comes Joe with this cockamamie tin can on his head to look like a knight (to go along with the theme of this year’s competition), and he tells me to kneel down on stage in front of a couple thousand people."

Noel laughed heartily as he said that he "felt like an idiot" during the ceremony, which for him is now an unforgettable King of Fun memory.

"That’s one of those cornball things he would do," said Noel.

Countless other residents, tourists, sand sculptors and town and business officials have shared similar fond memories of Hurley this week. Selectman Chairman Phil Bean said these stories collectively show just how "larger than life" Hurley really was in Hampton.

"He was Hampton Beach," said Bean. "He carried that flag for many years. He’ll be sorely missed."

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