Joseph (Joe) M. Lalley, Jr. of Asheville, North Carolina passed away Friday night, August 2, 2019 at Deerfield Episcopal Retirement Center. He was 93. He was a husband, father, caregiver, volunteer as well an educator and mentor to many in the Asheville community.
Joe was born in Baltimore, Maryland on November 1, 1925 to Joseph M. and Spalding Parker Lalley, the first of six children. He became part of the “Greatest Generation”, serving as a radio operator-gunner in an air-sea rescue squadron in the Philippines during the latter stages of World War II. He spent six months in Japan where he came to appreciate another side of the Filipino and Japanese people. The experiences had a profound impact on him. He later authored a book in retirement, Search and Rescue, recounting some of those stories. After earning an honorable discharge from the US Army in 1946, Joe retuned to Loyola College in Baltimore to complete a Bachelor of Arts. He also undertook graduate work in philosophy and history at Georgetown University. He held a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of North Carolina.
In 1950, Joe was invited to interview with the Headmaster of Gibbons Hall School for Boys in Asheville. It was a career move that would forever change his life. Early on in his tenure, he met his first wife, the former Edith Féliu. They were the parents of four children – Joe (Plymouth, MA), Anne (Asheville), Philip (deceased), and Bob (Silver Springs, MD). Edith Lalley died in 1995.
He continued as assistant headmaster at Gibbons Hall, teaching math and coaching virtually every sport. He became headmaster in 1960. Later in 1969, Joe became headmaster of three divisions of the St. Genevieve campus – Gibbons Hall, the St. Genevieve Academy, and the Girls’ Prep. Under his leadership, the schools underwent significant changes as the Academy closed in 1971 and St. Genevieve/Gibbons Hall opened as an independent, non-sectarian, coeducational day school for students in kindergarten through the ninth grade. Those who were part of the merged school family throughout its existence recognize that Joe’ s dedicated and unflagging commitment to the school was critical. Without his intense faith, unstinting energy, and perseverance to maintain high standards, Saint Genevieve/Gibbons Hall (SG/GH) would not have survived. He drove busses, built retaining walls, and assisted with renovations in addition to carrying out the infinite responsibilities of a teacher and headmaster; his school year was a 12-month assignment; his workdays began before dawn and ran long after dark. Not only did SG/GH survive – it excelled. It contributed to the strengths of Asheville’s educational community. He often stated “Strong private schools make for good public schools. In the long run, good private schools raise the level of educational expectations within a community and offer a choice to parents and students.”
The SG/GH Class of 1979 dedicated its yearbook to Mr. Lalley, noting “his sustained efforts in behalf of our school, the algebra hotline, his long work week, ‘Rodger Dodger, you old Codger…,’ wearing his heart on his sleeve, his ‘pearls of wisdom’ and other anecdotes, and his numerous activities on behalf of young people.”
Mr. Lalley resigned as Headmaster at the end of the 1983-84 academic year on the advice of his doctor. The following fall he joined the faculty of The Asheville School, where he taught mathematics, coached the school's golf team, and managed the school's reaccreditation efforts until his retirement in 1994.
Recognizing his long and superior service to independent education in North Carolina, Governor James Hunt awarded Mr. Lalley the Order of the Long Leaf Pine in May 1984. Simultaneously, Asheville School honored him by presenting its highest distinction, the Award of Merit.
Joe was always active in the Asheville community and North Carolina as well. Early in his career, he was Camp Director of the Jewish Community Center Day Camp and later Camp Deer Lake. During his 60+ years in Asheville, Mr. Lalley served as president of the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools; a member of the Education Advisory Council of the Diocese of Raleigh; chairman of the St. Joan of Arc Confraternity Christian Doctrine Board; and a member of the administrative board for the CCD School of Religion. In addition, he has filled terms as president of the Buncombe County Association for Retarded Citizens and of the Mental Retardation Association of North Carolina. He served several terms as a Board member of the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities as well as of Family and Friends Association of the WNC Center, for which he also served as president.
Joe moved to the Deerfield Episcopal Retirement Community in 2000 where he rekindled on old friendship with Nancy T. Lippard. They married in 2005. Nancy is still affectionately referred to as “Bonus Mom” by the family. He continued to serve his neighbors and the Asheville community in retirement. He was a counselor for ABCCM, a board member for Project READ, a tutorial program for those on intensive probation, and a driver for Meals-on-Wheels. He also pursued an interest in genealogy, working with friends and colleagues in the US and Ireland to develop a website (www.lalley.com) containing six family histories, historical features, maps of north County Galway, and a much-used index containing 84,000 Irish-Delaware records
Joe is predeceased in death by his parents, Joseph M and Spalding Parker Lalley; his brothers John, Thomas and Steven; his sister Anne Alvarez; his first wife Edith Feliu de Lalley and their son, Phillip. He is survived by his second wife, Nancy T. Lippard Lalley of Asheville; brother Richard Lalley and his wife, Carolyn, of Charlottesville, VA; daughter Anne C. Lalley and her husband, Joe Ebel, of Asheville; son Robert S. Lalley of Silver Springs, MD; son Joe Lalley and his wife, Deborah Clark-Lalley, of Plymouth, MA and their two daughters, Amelia and Emma; granddaughter Stephanie C. Lovett and her husband, Taylor; granddaughter Caroline Quershi and her wife, Nergis, and their two children of Washington, DC; and grandson Robert Joseph Lalley and his wife, Sirlei, of Bethesda, MD. Joe has five grandchildren.
A midafternoon memorial service is planned for Saturday, August 10, 2019. Details will be announced by Wednesday, August 7, 2019. The family invites friends to help celebrate his life by sharing stories and memories.
The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be directed to Asheville-Buncombe Community Christian Ministries (www.abccm.org) or to the charity of your choice.