Francis “Joe” Fulghum
June 8, 1925 - May 23, 2020
Francis “Joe” Fulghum, age 94, of Newark, Delaware, passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by his family on Saturday, May 23, 2020, two weeks shy of his 95th birthday.
Born in Wilson, North Carolina on June 8, 1925, Francis was the youngest son of the late Garry Thurman Fulghum and Beulah Phillips Fulghum. He grew up in Wilson and attended Charles L. Coon High School where he was recognized as a scholar athlete, playing football, basketball, and baseball. He captained the basketball and baseball teams. As a child, he was called Manny, but his high school coach called him Joe, after Joe Cronin, the Hall of Fame Boston Red Sox shortstop. Joe is the name that stuck.
After graduating high school (1943), Joe enlisted in the U.S. Naval Air Corps. He attended Flight School at Duke University and various other college campuses, ultimately serving as a navigator for the Naval Air Transport Service in the American Theatre of the Asian Pacific in World War II. He was honorably discharged, rank of Ensign, in 1946 and was awarded the Victory Medal. Joe received a baseball scholarship to attend Wake Forest University and graduated with a degree in business with minors in math and education in 1950, followed by a Master’s degree in Education from East Carolina University in 1958. In 1949, he played in the Collegiate World Series and was chosen for the All Tournament Team. In 1950, he led the team with a .409 BA– currently 9th all-time record at Wake Forest.
Joe married Helen Elizabeth Murray, of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, in 1951, after a summer romance sparked by a championship baseball season with the Stellarton Albions (professional Halifax District League). The evening of their wedding, Joe hit a grand slam home run that put the Albions in the final playoffs for the Nova Scotia District Championship. He often said he hit two “grand slams” that day, marrying Helen being the big one. Joe continued to play for the Stellarton Albions until he retired from active play after the 1957 summer season.
After the 1951 season ended, Joe and Helen returned to North Carolina where he taught school and coached for 4 years. Joe moved his young family to Delaware in 1957 to teach and coach for Seaford High School and to Newark in 1959. Joe taught mathematics and coached for Newark High School until retiring in 1987.
Although recognized as a gifted athlete during high school and college, Joe’s ability to teach and inspire others defined his life work. His math students and his ball players speak of how he patiently encouraged and coached them through the steps of a math problem or game plays and practice drills in his slow southern drawl until they got it. A Newark baseball player who later served as Joe’s assistant coach said, “He made the game fun to play; we enjoyed playing for him. He had an unusual ability to recognize talent and to put the right people in the right positions to make the whole team successful without showing favoritism. He was a kind gentleman who never had a bad word to say about anyone”.
Joe was head coach for the Newark Yellow Jackets—basketball (5 years) and baseball (21 years) and assistant football coach (1 year). Joe’s emphasis on discipline, practice, fairness, and love for the game underscored numerous championships. During his tenure, Newark Yellow Jackets teams won first place in the Blue Hen Flight A Conference 9 times and won 4 baseball state championships (1970, 71, 74, 84). Overall, Newark High posted 235 wins, 114 losses, and 2 ties with Joe as the head baseball coach. Joe Fulghum was inducted into the Delaware Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame (2005) and the Nova Scotia Sports Heritage Hall of Fame (Stellarton Albions team). Joe Fulghum Field at Newark High School is dedicated to his many years of coaching and mentoring his ballplayers.
Joe was a longtime member of the Newark United Methodist Church. After retiring in 1987, his focus shifted to family where he used his coaching talents in a different way. Family mattered most to him. They loved hearing his colorful stories of growing up in North Carolina, playing baseball and raising 5 spirited children with Helen. Joe enjoyed watching the Phillies, the Eagles, the 76ers and old movies. He had uncanny recall of movies and music from the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s, often singing a familiar verse and ending with “Did you know…?” His children appreciated his dry Southern humor, how he nurtured each one in his own unique way, and his presence in their lives. He loved to sing, dance, laugh and eat Southern cooking—especially Carolina BBQ. His happiest times were spent sharing meals, movies, stories, scouting investment properties and perusing the ads for discount coupons with his family.
In addition to his parents, Joe was preceded in death by his wife Helen, of 64 years; his sister, Olivia Fulghum Watkins of Henderson, North Carolina; and his brother, Garry Thurman Fulghum of Wilson, North Carolina. Joe is survived by his 5 children, Thurma Elizabeth Fulghum Deloach (William) of Chesterfield, MO, Francis Marion Fulghum Jr. (Patti) of Sammamish, WA, Lynn Fulghum Srivastava (Saurabh) Hockessin, DE, James Scott Fulghum (Maureen) of Elkton, MD, and David Lee Fulghum of Newark, DE; 9 grandchildren, Lauren, Braden, Garry, Blake, Nicole, Kyle, Jessica, Ryan, and Shannon; and 11 great grandchildren, Harper, Chloe, Jack, Jude, Parker, Willow, Brooke, Smriti, Amelia, Evelyn, and Natalie.
The family would like to personally thank the many friends & caregivers in Dad’s life—especially Artie, Mel, Sergei, Pat and Mike.
Family and friends are invited to attend a drive-thru visitation on Sunday, May 31, 2020, from 1 PM until 3 PM at Newark High School Joe Fulghum Baseball Field, 750 East Delaware Avenue, Newark, DE, in compliance with the COVID-19 regulations. Services and burial will be held privately at the convenience of the family at Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery, 2465 Chesapeake City Road, Bear, DE.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Season’s Hospice, 220 Continental Drive, Ste. 101, Newark, DE 19713, Newark United Methodist Church, 69 E. Main Street, Newark, DE 19711, or Delaware Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery, at the address listed above.