James Jursik — Rochester
James Jursik died peacefully at noon Monday, March 18, 2013, from cancer.
Born in Havana, where his father worked for Ford Motor Co., he spent most of his childhood in Detroit, with summers on Long Island at his maternal grandparent's home in Islip. After earning a bachelor's degree at Michigan State University, he joined the Navy for two years as a communications engineer. Following his service, he earned a master's degree in electrical engineering at MIT in Boston, where he met his future wife, Eileen (Riki) Arikian, a student nurse at Simmons College and Children's Medical Center. Following their graduations, they married in 1954, settling in Cleveland where he began his engineering career with Brush Development Company. At the encouragement of a friend, he moved to IBM in 1956 where he would spend the rest of his career.
He and Riki started their family in Cleveland, moving in 1958 to Mahopac (and later to Montrose), N.Y., followed by Los Gatos and San Jose, Calif., eventually settling in Rochester in 1962 to raise five children.
Devoted to designing circuits at IBM in his early years as an engineer, he earned many patents, and enjoyed being feted at IBM banquets in Manhattan with Riki, who fondly recalled his dancing with Tony award-winning actress Pearl Bailey on one such occasion. He grew to become a first-line manager of a team of engineers designing the sophisticated "specials circuits" that were the critical links enabling many of IBM's computer systems, disc drives and OCR devices to perform their unique functions at ever-increasing speeds. Under his thoughtful, focused leadership, his Rochester team gained recognition as the leading "specials circuits" design team for the corporation.
Throughout his adult life, one of his great pleasures was sailing with his wife, family and friends on Lake Pepin (as a founding member and officer of the Lake City Yacht Club), in the Apostle Islands, to Isle Royale, and in the Caribbean, surviving memorable storms (along with clear sailing) on the 25-foot sloop which he'd adapted to accommodate his family of seven. He took great pride in caring for it, refinishing the woodwork and hull countless times, both of which still looked new after more than 35 years. He also loved traveling with Riki, was an award-winning rug hooker (the lone male in a large group of women), tended his vegetable garden, hiked and biked, much of it from their summer home on Madeline Island near Bayfield, Wis., and parts of many winters at Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., where they also loved ballroom dancing together again.
A devout lifelong Catholic, he helped raise funds to start Pax Christi Church in Rochester, and a strong moral sense infused everything he did.
He was a Mayo hospice volunteer for many years, eventually receiving the same care himself during the final year of his illness.
Preceded in death by infant son Joseph and daughter Carol, he is survived by his wife of 59 years, Riki; children, David (Jill), Peter (Donna), Paul and Nancy; and five grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family requests remembrances to Mayo Clinic Hospice, Catholic Relief Services, or a charity of one's choosing.
A memorial Mass will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, March 22, at the Church of St. John the Evangelist, 11 Fourth Ave. S.W., Rochester. A reception will follow the service.