We received word of the death of James S. Davis, an Olean native remembered for his outstanding athletic ability and intellectual curiosity, who died as a result of COVID-19 on Monday in Williamsville. He was 86.
Jim Davis was a grandson of M.G. Fitzpatrick, who purchased the Times Publishing Co. in 1911, while his father, the late Robert L. Davis, was longtime president of First National Bank at its location at State and Union streets — now the Manny Hanny building. His mother was the late Mary Fitzpatrick Davis, an accomplished artist and champion bridge player.
Born in Olean on Sept. 15, 1934, Jim attended the Boardmanville School (School #5), Olean High School and graduated from The Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, N.J. He graduated from Colgate University in 1957 where he was a member of the golf and basketball teams and quarterback for the football team.
But the sport he was most devoted to was golf, his family says. From the time he first stepped onto the course at Bartlett Country Club in 1949 until his early 80s, golf was the center of his sporting life. He took lessons from legendary Olean golf pro Hugh Law, went on to win the Olean Times Herald tournament and he was club champion at Wanakah Country Club in Hamburg, in addition to being president of Wanakah’s board.
In 1957 he married Fay Willis of Ithaca and they raised their six daughters in Hamburg. He was a careful and methodical thinker, and forward looking, leading to a career in computer science, as it was just beginning.
He spent 25 years in computers at Marine Midland Bank in Buffalo, where his ideas helped guide the development of computers in banking. Jim was a tireless promoter of the use of communications to deliver product across the widespread geography of the Marine system. He also worked at Philadelphia National Bank and NCR in Ohio until he retired to Florida.
Family says, as the father of six daughters, he foresaw the coming of women’s liberation years before it fully emerged. He wrote essays on trends and ideas from topics as diverse as “black holes” in space to the timeline of the universe and civilization. He wrote a book on how to play golf, taking the reader on a step-by-step path that made it seem easy, though he assured all that it was a lifetime practice.
His fond memories of Olean stayed with him throughout his life. He was an acolyte for St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Olean and he often spoke of returning home.
A service is planned this summer, with burial in Mount View Cemetery.