Cover photo for Joseph Giles's Obituary
Joseph Giles Profile Photo
1943 Joseph 2023

Joseph Giles

May 9, 1943 — February 7, 2023

Joseph Francis “Joe” Giles, 79, an Erie County Councilman for 32 years and patron of the arts, died Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, after an extended illness. He was born May 9, 1943, the first of eight children of the late Joseph and Dolores (Morris) Giles. Joe’s life was his family, his long tenure as a civil servant, community volunteer and unwavering follower of his Catholic faith.

He is remembered for his signature Irish cap, generous spirit, fun loving personality, appreciation of the visual and performing arts, and commitment to Erie County as one of its longest serving legislators. Joe served on council from 1982 through 2013. He was as comfortable in council chambers as he was at Sunday gatherings hosted by his mother for her close-knit family, and relished the time spent with each.

He was a lifelong member of Saint Patrick Church and inducted as a Knight of Saint Patrick in 1997, in recognition of service to his church, community, and lifetime allegiance and support of Saint Patrick’s. He graduated from Saint Patrick Grade School, Cathedral Prep, and received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Gannon University.

He is preceded in death by his sister, Kerry Giles, who he raised with his mother when his father died, three months before Kerry and her twin brother were born. She was the central figure and joy of Joe’s life.

Joe devoted most of his adult life to representing his constituents in Erie’s 2nd District on County Council where he served as chair of council several times and currently as judge of elections for his home precinct. During his tenure on council, Councilman Giles was active in many community projects, notably, in the funding of the Bayfront Convention Center, Raymond M. Blasco Memorial Library, Erie County Prison, and the creation of a Poet Laureate position in Erie County. He also created and chaired the Erie County Gaming Revenue Committee to fund regional assets.

He spearheaded the restoration of the Alms House Cemetery in Fairview, serving as chair of the board until his death. For more than three decades he was a trustee of Pleasant Ridge Manor. He served on numerous boards, including the Warner Theater Restoration Committee, Arts Council of Erie, and obtained funding for the renovation and addition to the Erie Art Museum. He also was on the advisory board of the Office of Children and Youth.

Joe represented Erie County for many years on the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg and later, he was elected president of the National Association of Counties in Washington, D.C. Councilman Giles received the national award for County Arts Leadership from Americans for Arts in New York City and Washington, D.C. for his significant role in fostering and providing funding for the arts community in Erie County.

Before entering civic life, Joe was the associate director of Erie’s Martin Luther King Center for 14 years, where he founded the center’s Bayfront Arts and Culture Program. Prior to working with the late Alex Thompson at the King Center, he taught at Elk County Christian High School and was assistant principal of Saint George School.

Joe admired the works of the Sisters of Saint Benedict, Sisters of Saint Joseph, and Sisters of Mercy for their ministries and hands-on involvement in the City of Erie for its youth, women, and less fortunate. He was deeply influenced by the late Sister Mary Pascal Gray, SSJ at Saint Patrick Church.

He is survived by six siblings, in whom he took great pride: Deborah Vahanian (Ed Grout), Darby Giles, Tim Giles (Jamie Graham) and Terry Giles Sr., all of Erie; Sheila Giles (Ronald Bartlett) of Columbus, Ohio, and Patrick Giles (Christine) of Collins Center, New York,

He will be remembered by his adult nieces and nephews as the uncle who always bought them books to instill a love of reading since their childhood: Melissa Estep, Ivy Vahanian, Vanessa Helmer (Joshua), George Giles (Erin), Katie Giles Kasprzak (Michael), Maggie Giles, Geronimo Giles (Aubrey) and Theresa Giles; Ian, Meghan and Bridget Giles, Terry “TJ” Giles Jr. (Vivian), Julie Giles and Alana Burfield. He was great-uncle to 26 other nieces and nephews.

He is also survived by close family friends, John Monroe, Edward “Eddy” Dabkowski, Barbara and Richard Parks, David Graham, Kelly Fillak and Mary Daly.

In addition to his sister, Kerry, he is predeceased by his parents and paternal grandparents, Thomas and Mary (Mead) Giles; maternal grandparents, William and Theresa (Cabelof) Morris, and sister-in-law, Joan (Kaczynski) Giles.

Friends are invited to call Saturday, February 11,2023 at Saint Patrick Catholic Church, 130 E. 4th St. Erie from 10:30 AM until 12 noon at which time a Funeral Mass will be celebrated. Inurnment will be private.

Friends who wish to show their sympathy and support to the Giles Family may have a Mass remembrance offered for Joe.

Arrangements by the Quinn Funeral Home, West 9th & Liberty St.

Condolences to BurtonQuinnScott.com

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Joseph Giles, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Calling Hours

Saturday, February 11, 2023

10:30am - 12:00 pm (Eastern time)

St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church

130 East 4th Street, Erie, PA 16507

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Service Information

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Starts at 12:00 pm (Eastern time)

St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church

130 East 4th Street, Erie, PA 16507

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

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