Friday, December 08, 2023


Joseph R. Sexton, 90

Joseph R Sexton (Joe) of Stamford, a former Westport resident, died Feb. 17. He was 90. Image
Joseph Sexton: former Westporter. Contributed photo

He was born on March 1, 1925 in Litchfield, Minn.,  a small hometown of 3,000 that was a great place to grow up. He was baptized and made his first communion at St. Phillip Catholic Church in Litchfield.

While there his family had a lot of room, so they always had a pony, pigeons, baby chicks, and rabbits. His dogs were Duke and Mike, both Chesapeake Retrievers. There were also other dogs of questionable ancestry.

His family moved to Minneapolis when he was 10. He attended Margaret Fuller grade school where he taught the “city boys” how to tackle. In seventh and eighth grades he attended Annunciation School. He went to St. Thomas Academy, a military high school, in St Paul, and graduated from there in 1943.

While there he became a first lieutenant in the cadet corps, was on the crack drill squad, quarterback on the football team, and co-captained the track team. Always busy, his summer jobs included working on a farm in Darwin, Minn., as a Western Union boy delivering messages in Minneapolis on a bike, and at a pea cannery in Montgomery, Minn.

He enlisted in the Navy Air Corps and was called up July 1, 1943, a month after high school graduation and was released from active duty in 1946. He served at training bases in Iowa, Oklahoma, and Texas.

He recalled this time as the most memorable of his life. Afterwards, he flew in the Navy Ready Reserve at Floyd Bennett Field in New York, N.Y.. He flew the Navy dive bomber, torpedo bomber and antisubmarine planes.

He graduated in 1949 with distinction from the University of Minnesota, with a degree in chemical engineering. He was a member of Alpha Delta Phi social fraternity and served as its president. He was a member of two honorary societies: Tau Beta Pi, engineering, and Phi Lambda Upsilon, chemistry.

While working in the placement office in his senior year, he met the recruiter from Exxon and decided to work for them during the summer before he entered Harvard Business School. While at Harvard, he played rugby. He graduated in 1951 with an MBA.

He took a full time job as a process engineer with Exxon, and was sent to the Baton Rouge Refinery. He remained with Exxon until retirement, 35 years later. After three years in Baton Rouge, he was loaned to the N.Y. corporate office to do economics and planning.

Two years later he transferred to the Standard Vacuum Oil Co. in White Plains, N.Y. (half owned by Exxon and half by Mobil.) He enjoyed living in New York. He learned how to ride, and flew on weekends with the Navy Ready Reserve.

He was assigned to Indonesia for two years as the economic coordinator. He lived in Palembang, Sumatra, which is the refinery site, and later in Jakarta, Java. He returned to the United States home office and met and married Barbara MacLea in 1960.

He was sent to Australia as economic coordinator and lived there for six years. While there his son Bennet was born in 1965, and Stephen was born in 1966.

He was transferred back to White Plains for one year and then was assigned to Exxon’s new Pakistan Fertilizer Company. He went in as economic coordinator based in Karachi, and left after three years as director of marketing.

He was next transferred in 1971 as raw materials product line manager to the newly established Exxon Chemicals Far East corporate headquarters in Hong Kong, where his youngest son, Derek was born.

During the 15 years he was there, he traveled through all of Asia, as well as to Exxon manufacturing centers around the world, which were supply points to Exxon customers in the Far East. He and his family enjoyed periodic vacations to visit stateside relatives and friends, as well as sightseeing in Europe, Africa, and Asia.

He retired in 1986 and moved to Westport with his family. He went to work for Louis Dreyfus, an oil trading company. Later he became the tree warden in Westport. His wife Barbara died in 1990. Thereafter he was president of The Cotton Club and a board member of Pickwick, both social groups.

In 2003, he married Ann M. Lake and moved to Stamford, where he acquired Ann’s family: daughter Dianne M. Vara and her husband, Michael and their three children, Chase, Carson and Claudia.

He was a member of St. Leo Parish where he was a Eucharistic Minister, and he belonged to the Teams of Mary. He was a member of Woodway Country Club, and the Harvard Club of New York. He was social events chair of the Darien Senior Men’s Association, a past secretary of the CT Exxon Annuitants Club, and a member of the Darien Cotillion.

He volunteered with The Friends of Ferguson Library and was a member of the Forum of World Affairs.

He was a loving and kind husband, father and grandfather. He always saw the best in everyone and never said an unkind word about anyone. He noticed the “little things” that people said they wanted and tried to provide them to make them happy. He has a lovely Irish sense of humor mixed with German conscientiousness.

He was absolutely trustworthy. He had an unfailing enthusiasm to try new things and was always “ready to go” at a moment’s notice. He loved to dance and had a contagious singing voice and an ear-splitting whistle. He was a gentleman and a gentle man. He was truly loved and respected by all who had the opportunity to know him. God Bless Grandpa Joe.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Elizabeth and Romeo Sexton, his sister, Eileen, his brother Jim, and his first wife, Barbara MacLea. Surviving Joe are his wife, Ann, his three sons Bennet of Stamford, Steve of San Diego, Calif., and Derek of New York N.Y., his stepdaughter, Dianne Vara, and her husband, Michael, and his step grandchildren Chase, Carson and Claudia.

His family will receive friends on Monday, Feb. 22 from 4 to 7 p.m. and again on Tuesday, Feb. 23, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Leo P. Gallagher & Son Funeral Home, 2900 Summer St, Stamford. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 10:30 a.m. at St. Leo’s Church, 24 Roxbury Road. Burial will be held at Spring Grove Cemetery, Darien.

Contributions may be made to: St. Thomas Academy, 949 Mendota Heights Road, Mendota Heights, MN 55120 or Friends of Ferguson Library, 1 Public Library Plaza.

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