Joseph M. Denham of Hiram, Ohio, dies at age 88
Joseph M. Denham, a longtime resident of Hiram, Ohio, passed away on April 18, 2018, at the Laurel Lake Retirement Community in Hudson, Ohio. He was 88.
Joe and his wife, Viola, moved to Laurel Lake in 2012 after more than 50 years in their first home in the heart of the Hiram College community.
Son of Robert A. and Anna Synder Denham, he was born and raised in Matamoras, Pa. He graduated second in his high school class, but his most noteworthy high school achievement was meeting his lifelong companion, Viola Colaiaco, who graduated a year earlier and waited for Joe so they could attend Penn State together. In 1951, they married and graduated with teaching degrees.
In early 1952, at the height of the Korean Conflict, Joe entered the United States Army, but not before he was bitten by the college-teaching bug during a post-grad stint at the newly founded Orange County Community College in Middletown, N.Y. Because of his background in the sciences, Joe served stateside in several Army technical research and development units. A highlight of his army years was a trip to the Nevada desert to witness an atomic bomb detonation.
Upon his discharge from the Army, Joe started graduate school at Ohio University in Athens, specializing in organic chemistry and graduating in 1959 with OU's first-ever PhD. Other highlights of grad school were the arrival of daughter, JoEllen, in 1954, and son, Jeff, two years later to the day. In 1958 — even before graduating — Joe launched his teaching career at the innovative, liberal-arts-focused Hiram College and received tenure after three years. Over his 35-year Hiram career, he was instrumental in growing the chemistry department into a key element of Hiram's nationally recognized science curriculum. Joe became something of a college institution, serving multiple times on every possible faculty committee where he was notorious for his sly puns and dry humor. His true love was teaching and nurturing his students into becoming good chemists and better people. He enjoyed research sabbaticals to the University of Florida and the Michigan and Ohio State Universities. Frequent summer stints at Case Western Reserve University gave Joe new perspectives on teaching, as did a semester at the Hiram affiliate, John Cabot College in Rome, Italy, late in his career.
In 1993, Joe retired from Hiram after a prostate cancer diagnosis. He and Vi, who had recently concluded a 30-year career teaching first grade, embraced RV life and embarked on a long stretch of winter sojourns to Florida and idyllic summers at their little lake cottage in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. In both locations, they became members of part-time communities that yielded life-long friends.
Survivors include his wife, Viola; daughter, JoEllen of Afton, Tennessee; son, Jeff; daughter-in-law, Susan; granddaughter, Julia of Arlington, Massachusetts; niece Vaughne and nephew Kirk Hansen of Matamoras.
Remembrances in Joe's name to Hiram College would be most welcome and may be sent to Office of Development, Hiram College, Box 67, Hiram, OH, 44234.