David J. Rees Jr. 1925-2020
YOUNGSTOWN — David J. Rees Jr., 94, formerly of Liberty Township and Girard, passed away peacefully from natural causes, Saturday April 25, 2020, at Heritage Manor, where he had been a resident for the past 15 months.
“It’s a Wonderful Life,” the 1946 film considered one of the greatest and most beloved in American movie history, starred Jimmy Stewart in the leading role as head of his small town’s building and loan. While no movie star, Dave Rees’ real-life story, embracing that obvious parallel, can certainly be considered a wonderful life, indeed.
Mr. Rees was born July 7, 1925, the second son to mother, Pauline Harris Rees, and his father, David J. Rees Sr., who would serve as mayor of Girard from 1928 through 1933.
Young David overcame polio as a child and attended Girard schools, but spent his senior year and graduated from the Phillips Exeter Academy in Phillips, N.H. in 1943. Like many of his greatest generation, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served over 18 months with the 405th Infantry/102nd Division as a field medical technician in central Europe during the latter stages of World War II. Upon honorable discharge, he continued his education at Western Reserve University in Cleveland, graduating in 1949.
David then joined his father at the Girard Federal Savings and Loan Association, beginning a long and successful career in the local banking and housing industry. As the Mahoning Valley prospered economically throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s, Mr. Rees’s Girard Federal– small in size, but well-respected– provided both a safe and friendly place to save and residential mortgage loans to many prospective homeowners, some who can still recall the handshake-type deals made in those early years. In those first two decades before government regulations came to rule the business, David was instrumental in helping many families in the Girard area purchase their first home, often based primarily on his familiarity and assessment of their character. He likewise hired most of his employees in the same fashion, forging a shared loyalty and lifelong bonds of friendship.
David became the president of Girard Federal Savings when his father passed in 1961, and for the next 20 years, guided the company along the same straight and steady path his father had achieved. Along with leading Girard Federal, Mr. Rees was also active in both the Ohio Savings and Loan League and the Youngstown Chapter of the Institute of Financial Education. He was also involved with and took leadership roles in many local community organizations including, in the early years, the Girard Kiwanis, Girard Community Chest, Girard Chamber of Commerce and the Girard Red Cross and Salvation Army, and Park Vista Retirement Community and the Youngstown Playhouse during his retirement years. For his many generous efforts, he was honored as the Girard American Legion’s “Man of the Year” in 1959, was named “Outstanding Citizen” in 1970 by the Girard Chamber of Commerce and received special recognition in 1978 by the Youngstown Area Board of Realtors.
In 1981, after four years of upheaval in both the local economy and in the deregulation of the banking and savings and loan industries, Mr. Rees convinced the board of directors of Girard Federal that it was in their customers’ and employees’ best interests to merge with, and into, The First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Cleveland. The combined institution shortly thereafter changed its name to The First Federal Savings Bank and then later became Charter One Bank and Charter One Financial, Inc., in 1988, all with the same original senior management team. Throughout the ’90s and beyond, Charter One continued to grow through acquisitions to become a major regional bank, ranking among the nation’s 30th largest publicly-traded financial institutions at the time it was purchased in 2004 by the Royal Bank of Scotland and its American affiliate. Citizens Bank.
Mr. Rees was president of Charter One Bank’s Youngstown Division, a role he held from 1981 until 1990, and then continued to serve the bank in retirement as a member of Charter One’s Investment Committee and local Community Advisory Committee.
Away from the office, David was a true horse-racing aficionado, having attended many Breeder’s Cup Classics, including two at Churchill Downs. Surprisingly, he never experienced a Kentucky Derby, although he was in attendance in 1973 when Secretariat won the Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes. His favorite, though, was Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York, a destination he visited many times in his later years with much enjoyment and satisfaction.
David was also an accomplished golfer, leading a four-man Girard team that won the Ohio State Junior Chamber of Commerce tournament in 1951, winning the President’s Cup at Oak Tree Country Club in 1969 and winning the President’s Cup in 1974 at Youngstown Country Club, where he also posted scores of 74 and 77 as noted in the Vindicator, circa 1976, and later in life boasting, without any hint of shame, about once playing 45 holes in one day with close friend, Bo Jones.
A lifelong Cleveland sports fan, David attended all three Indians’ World Series home games in the pennant-winning season of 1948 as he was finishing college in Cleveland, was present in 1964 for the Browns’ last championship, and then had Browns’ season tickets for many years. He also had the opportunity to attend three Super Bowls, and even accompanied youngest son, Ted, to one NASCAR race. One of his greatest joys was attending the Ohio High School boys basketball tournament finals in Columbus for nearly 30 years with the same group of family and friends.
In his later years, David enjoyed traveling, playing bridge and doing crossword puzzles.
David was a creature of habit who eagerly looked forward especially in his later years to regular outings to eat at his various local favorites: Station Square, the Upstairs, the MVR, the (original) Royal Gardens, Youngstown Country Club, especially Thursday night bridge there, and Saturday morning breakfasts at Yankee Kitchen, and who graciously always insisted on taking the check and tipping generously.
A longtime member of the First Presbyterian Church of Girard, David also attended the First Presbyterian Church of Youngstown in his later years.
David’s wife, Celeste Geraci, whom he married Aug. 16, 1952, passed away July 30, 1989. He later enjoyed over 20 years of cherished companionship with former Girard resident Evelyn James, who passed away Oct. 23, 2018, in Edgewater, Md.
David was a loving, supportive and forgiving parent, and was extremely proud of his six children who will forever preserve his memory: sons, David III (Jayne) of Poland; Richard of Girard, with whom he made his home for nearly five years before moving to Heritage Manor, John (Dana) of Broadview Heights, Mark (Peter) of Tustin, Calif. and Ted of Girard; and his lone daughter, Michele (Trevor Edwards) of Sewickley, Pa. He also leaves seven grandsons, Matthew (Janeen), David IV and Quinn, Michael and Jamie, and Rees and Ryan; his cousin, Helen Stark at Omni Manor Nursing Home; and a nephew, William (Regina) Rees of Poland.
In addition to his parents and his wife, David was preceded in death by his brother, William D. Rees Sr., and by his daughter-in-law, Sally Dailey Rees.
The Rees children are grateful for the care and concern shown by all the wonderful staff at Heritage Manor and are especially appreciative for his personal caregiver Denise Cretella, whose devotion continued even while at Heritage Manor, and who was a special blessing to the family. The Harbor Light Hospice team was also a comforting presence in his final days.
Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, a private funeral service and burial was held for family
members only, with a memorial celebration of life planned for a future date to be announced.
You may visit www.blackstonefuneralhome.com to view this obituary and send expressions of sympathy or fond memories of David to the Rees family.