John Lay entered this world on July 2, 1928, the son of Charlie and Mary Lay. The years following his arrival found him pursuing his education in the school system of Hardin County before graduating from Central High School in 1946. He certainly made his mark while he was there, serving as the senior class Vice President as well as the President of Future Farmers of America, an organization that honored him as the State Star Farmer in 1945. John was also an athlete, lettering in basketball and football for three years and playing on the basketball team that finished fourth in the state tournament.
His graduation from high school found him taking a job with Kroger as the manager for their store in Marks, Mississippi, a position he held from 1947 until he was drafted into the Army in 1951. Basic training as Infantry and a Paratrooper sent him to Fort Breckinridge, Kentucky, a pipeline to the Far East Command. As a private he was also trained as a track vehicle mechanic before being promoted to Private First Class, then to Corporal, and then Sergeant before being placed in charge of the motor pool. His transfer back to the states found him with an honorable discharge and once again working for Kroger in Marks where he stayed until he began his studies in pre-med at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in 1954.
The year 1957 was especially momentous for John; not only did his finish his degree at UT, but he also married the love of his life, Jane Maxwell, on June 8, 1957. The almost 66 years that followed found them building a life together during which they eventually settled in Savannah, Tennessee with their four sons, but not before John completed his studies at the University of Tennessee Medical School in Memphis, graduating with his MD degree in June of 1961. After serving his year-long internship at Roanoke Memorial Hospital in Roanoke, Virginia, he practiced medicine in Adamsville, Tennessee; that also lasted a year before he joined a group of doctors in Greenville, Tennessee. The untimely death of Dr. Jim Carroll brought about an invitation to John to move his practice to Savannah which he did in October of 1964, retiring in February of 2012.
John’s dedication to the medical profession led to membership in several prestigious organizations, including the American Medical Association, the Tennessee Medical Association, the West Tennessee Consolidated Medical Association, and the American Academy. In 1985 John also organized the Hardin County Medical Society. As a staff member of Hardin Medical Center in Savannah, John served as President on more than one occasion while also maintaining his membership on the Hardin County Heath Board of Health for many years. His service as a medical professional did not end there; he filled the role of Hardin County Medical Examiner for 30 years as well as being the County Physician and company doctor for many corporations.
His service to his community was through far more than just his medical practice. John was one of the organizers and original stockholders for Hardin County Bank, was a member of the Lions Club for over 50 years, and of Post #28 of the American Legion for 30 years. He was a member of the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce as long as he was actively working and supported the American Cancer Society, serving as its President as well as the Crusade Chairman for the Hardin County Chapter for eight years. In recognition of one of his hobbies, he was a member of Ducks Unlimited, and in recognition of his avocation of breeding, raising, and showing Tennessee Walking Horses, John maintained his memberships in the Walking Horse Owners Association and the Mid-South Walking Horse Association. And of course, he was a proud member of the Hardin County UT Alumni Association and an attendee at every possible UT football game.
John’s dedication to his profession was second only to his love for his God and his family. As an active member of the Savannah First United Methodist Church, he had served on practically every committee at various times and was the treasurer of the Wesley-Williams Sunday School class.
John left his family and many friends on May 17, 2023 at the age of 94. Other than his wife, he is survived by his four sons, John Lay, Jr. and his wife Nettie, Rev. David Lay and his wife Penny, Philip Lay and his wife Vicki, and Charlie Lay and his wife Misty; 8 grandchildren, 7 great-grandchildren; and his sister, Patsy Wills.
His life touched the lives of countless others through his many years of service as a doctor in a rural community, and they, along with his family, will miss him greatly.