Joseph Lea Callaway, 57, died on March 7, 2023, at his home in Kinston, NC.
Lea was very proud to have been born and raised in East Tennessee by his loving grandparents, mother, and stepfather. He graduated from Doyle High School and the University of Tennessee with a BA in History, where he was a loyal member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. He was an Eagle Scout and a member of the Order of the Arrow. Lea was also studying to become an ordained minister.
Personally or professionally, Lea was dedicated to any position or project he was a part of or as he would say, “I’m all in.” Early in his career he earned multiple national sales awards for his accomplishments in selling spirits and wine, including National Salesman of the Year. Customer service was always number one to him. Using his talents in sales, he soon found his true calling in the non-profit arena where he could feed his passion for helping people, especially children. Lea was a professional with the Boy Scouts of America for 22 years, serving multiple Councils and holding several leadership positions including becoming a Scout Executive (CEO) in 2011. He also worked with several universities, including Fayetteville State University, where he raised more than $6 million in 18 months. During his career, he raised more than $100 million to support non-profits and higher education.
Lea embraced the motto of “Service Above Self.” He was an active member of Rotary for more 19 years, serving clubs in Orlando, FL, Bethesda, MD, Kinston, NC and Baton Rouge, LA. He was a Paul Harris Fellow, President of Orlando Breakfast Rotary and Kinston Evening Rotary and was recognized as Rotarian of the Year, several times.
Lea also loved animals. He often would find stray cats or dogs, spend the time and energy to catch them, take them to the vet and then find them good homes. He loved NASCAR, never missed a race, even if he had to record it. He went to races frequently and met many of his favorite drivers and leaders in the industry. His favorite things were to go to the race early, get a good parking spot, go into the pits, be the best dressed there and leave early to beat the traffic. In 2015, Lea decided he needed to challenge himself and ran 3 marathons in three months’ time and since ran several ½ marathons.
Lea had a great sense of humor, although you had to know him to understand it sometimes. He found joy in making people laugh. He loved to help his neighbors and friends, and he loved Kinston and adopted it as his home. He was always thinking of others, whether you were his waitress at a restaurant, the clerks that sold him lottery tickets, staff at his doctor’s office or close family and friends. Lea lived a life of gratitude, kindness, and thoughtfulness. He made it his mission in life to make the people around him feel special and appreciated, writing thank you notes almost daily.
Lea is survived by his wife, Jeanine; his mother, Sara Lea Callaway Redmon; brother, Frank T. Callaway (Karla Dodd); niece, Bridget Callaway Greer; uncle, Frank B. Callaway, Jr. (Anne) and several friends that he considered family. Lea was preceded in death by his grandparents, Frank and Marion Callaway; and his step-father, Carl Redmon.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. March 25, 2023, at Gordon Street Christian Church, (118 E. Gordon Street). Memorials may be sent to: Friends of the Homeless Emergency Shelter - PO Box 2136, Kinston, NC, Gordon St. Christian Church – 118 East Gordon St, Kinston, NC, East Carolina Council-BSA – PO Box 1698, Kinston, NC or Lenoir County SPCA – PO Box 1481, Kinston, NC.
Following the service, there will be a gathering of friends and family to toast Lea, his life and service to others at the Beer Barn, Hwy 70 East, Kinston, NC. Please join us in this celebration!