Growing up in Winnetka, Illinois, Joseph attended New Trier Township High School where he played basketball, football, wrestling, golf and hockey. He was on the All-Suburban team in 1948. He then attended Colorado University for one year before transferring.
He entered Lake Forest in 1949 and earned seven varsity letters in golf and football. He was captain of the golf team and played halfback for the football team. A member of Phi Delta Theta, he served as social chairman and scholarship chairman for the fraternity. He was also a member of the Economics Club and the Lettermen's Club.
Graduating with a business and economics degree, he went to work
for his father's investment banking company Dempsey & Co.
In 1954 he took the vice president position at the firm. In
1963 he and nine other businessmen started the Zenith Life
Insurance Company and he served as a board member for the
company. Along with being a consultant for IBM, he served as
secretary and then president of the Street Club of Chicago and was
a member of the Executives Club and the LaSalle Club. In 1982
he took over as president of Dempsey & Co.
Joseph stayed active playing a great deal of golf and tennis. His golfing ability allowed him to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open, the U.S. Senior Amateur tournament, and he was the Chicago District Golf Association Senior Champ in 1987.