Emmett Elbert Day Sr.

Jul 21, 1915 – Dec 11, 2014

Emmett Elbert Day Sr obituary image 1



Story of Emmett E. Day’s Life


He can’t be summed up, but, Emmett Elbert Day, Sr. was a man of many talents,  whose spirit and teachings live on in the lives of  his family , friends and students. As Patriarch of the Day family, with members around the country, he is adored by all  for his humor, funny stories and April Fool’s Tricks. He was a wonderful husband, a loving and helpful father.  He was an engineer, an  inventor, a  creative artist, sculptor, and furniture maker. He started developing these skills, basically on his own as a very young child, and could make anything from any material. He passed these skills on to his son, Emmett Jr. starting when Emmett was 2 and Emmett became world known for his creative ability with precious materials. He was encouraging to his daughter, Elaine, in her studies and career as an architect and teacher. He was supportive of his wife, Roxie, and her career as a high school teacher, and he made everything for her she asked him to make, from shelves and picture frames to living room couches. He also took great pleasure in designing and making gold jewelry for Roxie, and other relatives. When a young man he was  an excellent  tennis player, and later could be found skiing and power boating into his late 80’s. 


Emmett was the  sixth child and youngest son of Professor Arthur Lee Day and Nellie Young Fort Day, was born in Paris Texas in 1915 and grew up in Commerce Texas. He resided in Seattle WA for the past  67 years and returned to Commerce and his home place environs at least twice a year his whole life. He passed away, December 11th, 2014 just shy of his 100th birthday. He really wanted that letter from the President.


He attended all grades in the Commerce School system. In Junior High School he was listed as having high scholarship with a 99 point average. He graduated from Commerce High School in 1933 as Valedictorian.  He said, “My father, Professor A.L. Day was Superintendent of Commerce Schools with an office at the High School entry, I could never be late as he saw all of us came in.”


It was in high school he met his lifelong love and future wife, Roxie Elaine Whistler,  who grew up on a cotton farm outside Commerce.  She became interested in Emmett when she saw his hand crafted coach on display in a downtown store window. At 15 he participated in the inaugural General Motors Fisherbody  Craftman’s Napoleonic Coach  Contest and won First Place in the Texas Junior Division.  Winning was based on fidelity to the coach working drawings sent to youngsters all over the country.  As the State Junior Division winner,  Emmett won the prize of a trip to Detroit meeting other winners from around the country and remained friends with many of them from other states for the rest of their lives. The beautiful coach, a replica of Napoleon’s marriage coach to Josephine, is now on display at the Alumni Center at Texas A & M, Commerce.  Emmett and Roxie became sweethearts during their senior year in high school then  went on to college together.


Emmett first attended East Texas State Teachers College, now Texas A & M, Commerce, and received a B. A. degree in 1936,  graduating as Salutatorian.  He was a member of Alpha Rho Chi Scholarship Society comprised of the upper ten percent of ETSTC campus scholars. He also lettered in tennis after three years on the tennis squad. The Commerce Lion’s club awarded Emmett the Lion’s Club Medal for Highest Scholarship Average of any letterman during the year.


He married Roxie in 1937.  They were married 63 years until her passing in 2003. In addition to each of their lifelong careers, they shared a love of building and making things, skiing, boating and world travel. They had two children, Elaine Day LaTourelle and Emmett E. Day Jr., deceased.


From 1936 to 1941 Emmett  taught industrial Arts in the San Antonio, Texas public schools and also performed specialized wartime government assignments in San Antonio from 1941 to 1943.


Deciding to change careers, having always wanted to become an engineer, in 1943 Emmett was accepted into the Graduate Program in Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge Massachusetts.  He and Roxie pulled up their Texas stakes and moved north with their 5 year old daughter, Elaine.


While a graduate student he served as an engineering instructor to classes succeeding him, as WWII had depleted the MIT teaching staff. While at MIT he helped organize the graduate course in stress analysis and develop the laboratory exercises for the new courses of experimental stress analysis being taught at MIT. He joined a small coterie of pioneers developing the new field of strain gauges for testing materials.  This was followed by the formation of the Society for Experimental Stress Analysis, an organization he was to serve for many years. Strain Gauges were to become instrumental  in testing surface skin strength in the burgeoning airplane industry, among many other uses. 


Day received  his B. S. degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1945 and his M. S. in 1947 from MIT.


On a whim visit to Seattle in 1947 he was invited by the Chair, Professor McMinn, to join the teaching faculty in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle. As a result, Emmett day rose from Instructor to Assistant Professor in 1948, Associate Professor in 1950 and Full Professor on the Engineering Faculty in 1954, an unprecedented short seven years to Full Professorship. He contributed to many University Committees and was a member of the UW Research Society.


At the University he supervised the Experimental Stress laboratory with its related courses. Stress Analysis, strain gauges, strength of materials and machine design became his special areas of expertise.  He wrote presented and published many research papers in these areas in the US and abroad.


Professor Day spent his  summers doing research for various companies, among them the Boeing Airplane Company, Seattle; the Naval Research Laboratory, Washington D.C.; Chance Vought Aircraft in Dallas, Texas, to name a few.  He brought his expertise in stress analysis and strength of materials to the design of airplane skins. For example,  his summer research for Chance Vought  was directing the conduct of structural tests on metal alloys in the testing lab. Day was a registered professional engineer in the State of Washington.


Professor Day served the University of Washington for 38 years  and was the Associate Chairman of the Department for 15 of those years, retiring in 1985 as Professor Emeritus. Many of his graduate students have conducted professional lives of distinction, research and innovation. He interested many young students in choosing experimental stress analysis as a career and several of who became Presidents of the Society of Experimental Mechanics.


Professor Day was active and rose to the highest leadership position in his professional organizations.  He chaired committees and served as officers in the American society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the Society for Experimental Stress Analysis more recently called the Society for Experimental Mechanics (SEM) an international scientific society. He we also a member of the Northwest Scientific Association, American Society for Metals, American Welding Society, Sigma Xi, and the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). From 1953 to 1956 he was editor of the Machine Design and Manufacturing Bulletin  published in the Mechanical engineering Division of ASEE.


Professor Day was an associate member of ASME in 1946, becoming a member in 1949.  In serving the Society, he held membership on many, many  committees over time and was Vice-President of Region VIII from 1956 to 1958. In 1954 .  he was awarded the Pi Tau Sigma Gold Medal Award presented by the Board of Honors of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) for outstanding achievement in his field within ten years of his graduation from an engineering school.  In 1974 Emmett was elected Life Fellow of  ASME.


Professor Day was part of the charter founding  of the society of Experimental Mechanics in the mid-forties while he was at MIT. He was President of SEM in 1975. He held virtually every office, chaired many committees and served SEM in many capacities since its organization. He was still active in the society and continued to participate in technical meetings, particularly the annual dinner for the Past Presidents of SEM for most of his life.


In 1978 he received the M. M. Frocht Award through which the Society of for Experimental Stress  Analysis  (SEM) recognizes “outstanding education in the field of experimental mechanics and constitutes recognition by one’s peers of truly significant achievements as an educator. “ In 1982 he was elected Life Fellow of  the Experimental Mechanics Society.


Emmett retired as  Professor Emeritus in 1985.  Recently, at 93 years old, he was awarded the F. G. Tatnall Award by the Society for Experimental Mechanics which recognizes individuals who have made outstanding service contributions to the Society and reads “for long and distinguished service to the Society”.


During Emmett’s recent  years he enjoyed reading American history, particularly the biographies of the Nation’s Presidents. He was a regular at the Seattle Yacht Club for lunch with his friends and a regular at the U of W  IMA for his three-times-a-week hour of exercise.  He was remarkably fit and flexible to the end of his life.


Emmett passed away peacefully in his sleep on December 11th, 2014. Emmett was predeceased by his wife of 67 years, Roxie Whistler Day and his son, Emmett E. Day, Jr.


He is survived by daughter Elaine Day LaTourelle and her husband Terry Middaugh,  grandson Adrian LaTourelle, his wife Tessa and sons Julian and Olivier;  granddaughter Ally LaTourelle; granddaughter Kelly Day; grandson Seth Meyer and his wife Gaylene and sons Evan and Emmett; nieces Anita Day Miller; Chris Weissinger, Sharon Day and Jenny Pierce; Cassandra Coffman Tillory and Steven Coffman.




George Clubine
Seattle, wa
Sep 4, 2015

It was my families supreme pleasure to work for Emmett for over 30 years. My father John Clubine and myself pruned his hedges and at least once per year. He was always a gentleman with a quick wit and a smile that penetrated the soul. I will miss our brief but informative conversations. As the years passed he reveled in the fact that he was my oldest customer and I joked that I could hook him up with a few women his age... that always brought a smile to his face. In reading his obituary I realize that my knowledge of this humble man was only but a fraction of what he had accomplished in his lifetime. He will truly be missed.....Thank you Emmett, my friend.

Stephen Day and Nancy Josephson
Seattle, WA
Dec 17, 2014

Dear Elaine and Terry, Adrian, Ally and family,

We too wish that Emmett had gotten that letter from the President! He would have deserved it not only for age but for his outstanding human qualities.

We fondly remember meeting Emmett and Roxie in Rome during the late 1980's when they came to visit Elaine as professor with the U.W. Architecture in Rome program. Emmett loved Italy and he loved the Northwest Institute of Architecture and Urban Planning in Italy (NIAUSI) now known as The Civita Institute. He was very supportive of Elaine's leadership in this organization and spent time dusting archive materials and working in the garden in Civita di Bagnoregio, as well as donating to The Civita Institute.

We are sorry for your loss, and our loss too, but are heartened by having known Emmett and to be part of your great group of friends.

With love,

Steve and Nancy

George Eaton
Mercer Island, WA
Dec 15, 2014

I was fortunate to know Prof Day at UW. He was a great role model, as a person as well as an engineer.

George Eaton, BSME class of 1959 at UW.

molly peterson
seattle, wa
Dec 14, 2014

We were fortunate to know both Emmett and Roxie. In the nearly four decades that we shared as neighbors, never an unkind word was exchanged. Emmett was a true gentleman and wonderful conversationalist, and we continually marveled at his sharp and curious mind. It was a pleasure to have known Emmett. He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with his large and loving family.

Don Deibert
Seattle, WA
Dec 14, 2014

I have a deep appreciation for the life of Professor Day as I knew him in his classroom and on the ski slopes.


Don Deibert

This obituary is provided by Bonney-Watson, providing caring and compassionate funeral, cremation and cemetery services since 1868. We have a professional staff, four funeral homes, two cremation facilities and one of the largest cemeteries south of Seattle, as well as a comprehensive grief support program.