Cover photo for Joe D. DeLay's Obituary
Joe D. DeLay Profile Photo
1938 Joe 2024

Joe D. DeLay

November 15, 1938 — March 10, 2024

Henderson, TN

From finite to infinity

Joe Donald DeLay was born Nov.15, 1938 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, the first son of Samuel and Erlene DeLay. The family moved from the farm in Milton, Tennessee to Chattanooga in 1946 where he graduated from Tyner High School. Loving academia, Joe earned degrees from Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Georgia. He taught two years at Abilene Christian University where he met and married Kay Stobaugh in 1965. After completing a Ph.D. at Georgia Tech, he was employed as the developmental chemist by Pave Mark Corporation.

 

He, his wife Kay and their daughter Daphne moved to Henderson, Tennessee in 1982  for Joe to join the faculty of Freed-Hardeman University. There, he taught and entertained students for 35 years. He was very invested in teaching and loved interacting with his students. Dr. DeLay was known on the Freed-Hardeman University campus for, among a list of other things, his demonstration of infinity in a physical science class. He began drawing a line on one side of a chalkboard, drew the line all the way across the board, out of the classroom, and out of the building. He did not return to class. Instead, he walked around campus, continuing the line he had begun in class. Things like his daily race to beat everyone to lunch from chapel became legendary. As an amateur astronomer, he enjoyed taking his students and his telescope on special field trips to share God’s handiwork.

 

A dedicated fan of the FHU intercollegiate athletic teams, Joe was a member of the university’s athletics committee. His heart, however, was in supporting mission work, helping those in need and donating to various FHU programs. He was generous with his time, his money and his talents. Most recently, he began the Silver Leaf Fund to assist departments in the College of Arts and Sciences with the purchase of equipment outside the annual budget.

 

Carrying his canoe in the back of his truck all summer, Joe enjoyed fishing in the Forked Deer River. These trips were more likely to produce a bouquet of swamp flowers for Kay than fish for supper. Catch and release was his style. They also provided subject matter for another of Joe’s hobbies, nature photography.

 

Joe enjoyed writing poetry. This was a lifelong hobby started as a teen. In 1993, he published a collection of his poems titled, Growing Up In The South

 

He served as a deacon of the Estes Church of Christ and at time of death was serving as a deacon of Jacks Creek Church of Christ. He enjoyed delivering food for Meals on Wheels and teaching Bible classes with Kay. 


Joe is survived by Kay, his wife of 57 years; his daughter Daphne Dickinson (Erik); and two smart, athletic grandsons, Cole and Spencer Dickinson; his brother Sam DeLay (Sarah) and their children, Katie and Joseph; and his sister’s daughter, Cecile Wimberly (Matt). Preceding him in death were his parents, Samuel and Erlene DeLay, and his sister, Faye DeLay Sliger. Joe departed this life March 10, 2024 bound for infinity and beyond where our Lord awaits. 


A celebration of his life will be held at a later date. 

 

Memorial gifts may be made to the Silver Leaf Fund at Freed-Hardeman University, 158 East Main, Henderson, Tennessee 38340.

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

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