Jack Denys, a Lutheran minister who often counseled grieving families, recommended that people should write their own obituaries, in order to help family members. Here is the one he wrote for himself.
By Jack André Denys
Jack André Denys, president of the American Topical Association (ATA) 2008-2016, and accomplished thematic exhibitor, died on June 26, 2022. He was 79.
Jack joined the ATA in 1976. During his eight-year tenure as ATA president, Jack oversaw the hiring of its outstanding staff – executive director Vera Felts and editor Wayne Youngblood - and led the association in visioning, fund-raising, innovations, communications, and its only net membership gain since the 70’s. He created the idea of the “Buck the Trend Fund” to which members have contributed more than $600,000 in 14 years. He promoted the inclusion of “Beyond the Catalog” items in ATA checklists and created the ATA motto “About The Adventure.” For the ATA’s Topical Time, he wrote a regular column Jack’s Journal for eight years, among many other pieces. He was a charter member of the 1949 Society, ATA members who have included the association in their wills. In 2014 Jack received the ATA’s Distinguished Topical Philatelist award, its highest honor. The letter nominating Jack called him “the most influential and positive voice for topical philately in the world today.” In 2020, Jack received the American Philatelic Society’s Nicholas G. Carter Volunteer Service Award. He was recognized for National Service with “thanks for the wide-reaching impact of his work.”
A member of the American Association of Philatelic Exhibitors (AAPE), Jack wrote for its journal The Philatelic Exhibitor, receiving the Randy L. Neil Award for the best article in 2011. In 2018 he co-edited the ATA handbook What’s First? and contributed to the ATA’s handbook Topical Adventures.
Jack was a thematicist (and loved that word!) who collected and exhibited various topics, including Albrecht Dürer, Andrew Wyeth, “Queen Victoria’s Filatelic Family Tree,” “GONE from NYC,” “Same Birthdates Same Deathdates,” “Colonial Williamsburg,” and “Famous People Who Stuttered.” The Bayeux Tapestry, his primary philatelic topic, depicts William the Conqueror’s invasion of England and victory at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. His exhibit earned 10 consecutive gold awards, which qualified him for the AAPE Diamond Award. The exhibit won the Reserve Grand (2007) and the Grand (2008) at the National Topical Stamp Show.
Mentored by the queen of thematic philately, Mary Ann Owens, Jack, in turn, mentored other topical collectors and exhibitors.
Co-founder of the Albrecht Dürer Study Unit of the ATA, Jack served as president and editor of its Dürer Journal for 20 years. He recently re-activated that organization, again serving as president and editor. He also belonged to the American Philatelic Society (APS) and the Westfield (NJ) Stamp Club.
A retired Lutheran pastor, Jack lived in Somerville, NJ, with his wife, Mary Anne. They have three adult sons, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Remembrances of Jack from others:
From Vera Felts, ATA executive director emerita
Jack André Denys served as ATA President for eight years--a record that more than doubles the time served by any of our other 18 past presidents. But, more than longevity, it is the quality of his leadership that will be remembered by members of ATA. Jack's background in organizational leadership and his experience as an outstanding pastor and church leader gave him the needed qualities to shepherd our organization into the digital age. His gentle but thorough assistance to me and to the ATA leadership team was always on skillful and on target. Jack's outstanding communication skills were appreciated by all. I believe there were many weeks that Jack, as the fully volunteer president, put in more hours for ATA than did I, the full-time employee. His devotion to our organization was complete, and today's ATA members are still benefiting from his outstanding leadership.
From Dale Smith, immediate past president
Jack Denys was a leader for ATA at the right place and time. He
served 4 terms as president, a total of 8 years of service. During his
presidency he led the board of directors in making two significant hires in our
organization: Vera Felts as executive director and Wayne Youngblood,
editor of Topical Time. Along with Jack these three improved our
organization dramatically. It was Jack's strong leadership through
those years that kept ATA financially strong, brought new energy to the board of
and made sure our organization thrived into the future.
We owe a debt of gratitude to Jack and his strong leadership. I will
always remember him fondly.
From Dawn Hamman, ATA president
When I joined ATA in 2012, I knew I wanted to collect topicals and make an exhibit. I badly needed a mentor, and Jack generously shared his knowledge and offered encouragement. We enjoyed passing projects back and forth, helping each other make improvements. He always had time for conversation or a stamp project. Jack was a gracious and caring person who could bring a bit of fun to any gathering. His hundreds of stamp buddies will miss him.