James Rees Jr.

Memorial Service

11:00 am - 12:00 pm
Saturday, January 27, 2024
Downtown United Presbyterian Church
121 Fitzhugh Street N.
Rochester , New York, United States

Obituary of James Dunlap Rees Jr.

James Dunlap Rees, Jr., of Pittsford, died peacefully at home Monday, January 15, 2024 with wife, Mary, and son, Kevin, by his side. He was 88.


Jim was born in Erie, Pa. to James Dunlap Rees Sr. and Helen Rose Rees. He earned his B.S. degree from the University of Rochester’s Institute of Optics on a U.S. Navy scholarship, then spent five years in the Navy. Later, he earned his M.S. from the U of R.


He was predeceased by sons, Brian Dunlap Rees and Aaron Taylor Rees. He is survived by son, Kevin Dunlap Rees (Jennifer) and children, Aedan and Abigail of Novato, Calif., and Aaron’s wife, Joan Rees and children Jackson, Isabella, and Harper of Ipswich, Mass.


Jim was an optical engineer whose career was largely spent at Xerox Corporation in Rochester, where he was principal engineer in the Optical Technology Group. He was lauded as Inventor of the Year in 1986 by the Rochester Patent Law Association. Among his more than 50 patents: the flash imaging system used in copiers, a first gradient index (SELFOC) lens array and a gas zoom lens.


Jim brought his unique zest to everywhere he went, from backpacking trips in the Adirondacks, climbing Japan’s Mt. Fuji and going on safari in Africa to visiting numerous national parks, hiking Kauai’s rugged Kaanapali Coast in Hawaii with his young family and traveling all over Europe and the United States. His detailed travel itineraries were the stuff of legend.


He also built his family’s home in Pittsford, converting an old schoolhouse, and, from scratch, their beloved octagonal cottage on Canandaigua Lake – as iconic a dwelling as he was a man. He played a mean game of bridge and belonged to a bridge group for over 25 years. He loved playing games with his family and friends, and also laughing and telling stories. Possessed with a jovial nature and a one-of-a-kind belly laugh, Jim enjoyed being teased almost as much as he loved teasing others. 


Aside from his technical prowess and keen mind, Jim read avidly (favorites included Tony Hillerman, Michael Connelly and Carl Hiaasen) and he loved movies starring Gene Hackman and Humphrey Bogart. He took film appreciation courses with George Grella at the University of Rochester, and he and Mary hosted several movie parties at their home, complete with a popcorn machine.


Said Mary, his wife of almost 56 years, “I have loved my life adventuring with Jim and never knowing how he might surprise me next.” 


Commented son Kevin, “Dad never said ‘this isn’t possible’; he was a thinker and a doer who never backed away from a challenge.”


A celebration of Jim’s life will be held Saturday, January 27, 2024 at 11:00 am at the Downtown United Presbyterian Church,121 Fitzhugh St N, Rochester, NY 14614, where Jim was a long-time member and leader, followed by a reception in the Hallock Lounge. In lieu of flowers, please make donations in Jim’s memory to Building Minds in South Sudan, https://www.bmiss.org/ , a charity he helped found and for which he was its first treasurer.

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