Cover photo for James C. Preston's Obituary
James C. Preston Profile Photo
1926 James 2019

James C. Preston

October 14, 1926 — September 2, 2019


James Clarence Preston, 92, of Hector, NY, and beloved husband of Gretta for 66 years, went to be with his Lord on September 2, 2019. He passed peacefully at home while holding his bride's hand.

'Jim' was born in Friendship, NY to the late Clarence and Livonia (Pierce) Preston. Losing his mother at a young age, he grew up in farming communities across NY State, and graduated from Ithaca High School in 1944. Jim proudly volunteered to serve his country during WWII that same year. In the Navy, unable to pursue his love of flying due to color blindness, he became a Patrol Craft Radarman 3rd class, having graduated from Sampson Naval Base Training Camp in Romulus, NY. Never losing his interest in farming, agriculture and rural community development, after his honorable discharge in 1946, Jim graduated from Cornell University in 1950 and started his working career as a Cornell Cooperative Extension Agent. Jim loved traveling across the counties where he worked, and knew every back road because he rarely took the same route twice. He was much appreciated by those he met, and with his knowledge and winning personality, Jim made many lifelong friends of the farmers he served. He was a member of the Extension professional’s Epsilon Sigma Phi Honorary Fraternity.

In 1951, Jim met 'the love of his life' while working in Steuben County. He married Gretta Robbins in 1953 in Bath, NY. Having loved his time as a student at Cornell, and while starting a family, Jim continued his education, earning his Master’s Degree from University of Wisconsin in 1959. By 1963, Jim and Gretta had welcomed 3 daughters into the world, and that year Jim accepted his dream job in Cornell Cooperative Extension at Cornell University, moving the family to Ithaca, NY. Jim's love of education continued, and he earned his Doctor of Education at Cornell in 1968. Jim accepted his 2nd dream job at Cornell as a Professor in the Dept. of Rural Sociology, and at the same time became Director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development. Jim then developed the Empire State Food and Agriculture Leadership Institute (LEAD New York), and became its first Director. His 2-year pilot program for the Institute was so valued and well received that it continues today, having graduated 17 classes. In recognition of his significant contributions Jim humbly received the honor of Professor Emeritus upon his retirement from his much-loved Cornell.

Jim had many hobbies, but loved time spent with his family the best. The family trips every summer will never be forgotten by his daughters. Unfailingly kind and loving, there were still rules to live by that Jim did not waver from and he instilled those values in 'his girls'. Cindy, Joan and Barb could not have been prouder to call him 'Dad' for he was the best one ever. Jim shared his love of gardening, boating, hunting, fishing, archery, golf, square dancing, cards, horseback riding and many other hobbies with anyone in the family with the same interests; those memories of his enthusiasm will remain forever. He remained an avid reader up until his death. Family as well as friends will remember Jim's love of most any Cornell sport, as well as any sport that had one of his children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren playing. He never missed a Cornell hockey game if he could help it, and that went double for watching his family play any sport of their choice. His family will never forget the encouragement of his 'cheering ' that could be heard like a foghorn across any playing field. Always closely involved with his home and school communities, Jim happily took leadership roles whenever called upon. He made friends everywhere he went and his commitment to church, Rotary, and Cornell Alumni Associations was unwavering. He was a member of RSVP, Alpha-Zeta fraternity, Naval Patrol Craft Association, Parkinson's Support Group and many others. Jim was honored to have been recognized 3 times in Rotary as a Paul Harris Fellow, most recently in the week preceding his passing. Jim's love of traveling was shared with Gretta. They visited all 50 of the United States, on most trips using their motor home, including to Alaska and back. They did not stop their trips until Parkinson’s disease forced Jim to slow down in his 80's. There was 'no quit' in the man as he did everything 'right' in managing his Parkinson’s, rather than let Parkinson’s manage him. He will forever be an example to his family of the best way to deal with what life hands you!

Jim is survived by his beloved wife Gretta (nee Robbins) Preston, much loved sister Ruth (Robert) White of Cary, NC, sister-in-law Vera Robbins of Bath, NY, daughters: Cynthia (Michael) Hagin and Joan (Fred) Denmark JR, both of Trumansburg, NY; daughter Barbara (William) Yaeger of Cumming, Ga.; grandchildren, Timothy (Kate) and Todd (Lonnie) Denmark, Katelyn (Chris) Hubbell and Stephanie (Jeff) Steuer, Erica (John Whiting) Yaeger and Mackenzie (Henry Candela) Yaeger. Great grandchildren Allison, Cole, Emma and Robert Denmark, and many loving nieces and nephews. In addition to his parents, Jim was predeceased by his loving in-laws Joseph and Ethel Robbins of Bath, NY, his brother Roger (Grace), infant sister Betty, brother-in laws Joseph (Doris), Harold (Patricia) and Albert Robbins, sisters-in-law, Norma (George) Freeman and Thelma (Art) Covert.

The family will be present to receive friends on Saturday (September 14th) at the Hector Presbyterian Church, Rte. 414, Hector, NY, with calling hours from 11AM-1 PM and memorial service immediately following at 1 PM.
Burial will be at a later date. In lieu of flowers the family asks that you kindly consider a donation in Jim's memory to LEAD New York, Cornell University, 275B Warren Hall, 137 Reservoir Ave, Ithaca, NY 14853 or the Hector Presbyterian Church, PO Box 96, Hector, NY, 14886. Arrangements with Royce-Chedzoy Funeral Home (, Watkins Glen.
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of James C. Preston, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Saturday, September 14, 2019

11:00am - 1:00 pm (Eastern time)

Hector Presbyterian Church

5511 NY-414, Hector, NY 14841

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Saturday, September 14, 2019

Starts at 1:00 pm (Eastern time)

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