James Gaylor

October 1, 1934 ~ December 5, 2020 (age 86)


On December 5th, James L. Gaylor, 86, of Newton passed peacefully to join his Lord and Savior and wife of over 60 years who predeceased him earlier this year.  A memorial service for James will be held in the Spring. Memorials may be made to the First United Methodist Church in Newton may be sent directly to the church or the Wallace Family Funeral Home and Crematory.

James, the son of David P. and Lena (Livingston) Gaylor was born on October 1, 1934 in Waterloo.  He grew up in Newton and graduated from Newton High School in 1952. After high school, James attended Iowa State University majoring in Chemistry.  On March 25, 1956, James was united in marriage with his high school sweetheart, Marilyn L. Gibson at the First United Methodist Church in Newton.  They made their first home in Wisconsin, while James received his Masters and PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  While in Wisconsin, James and Marilyn’s two oldest children, Douglas and Ann were born. In the mid 1960’s, the family moved to Ithaca, New York, where James would take his first position on the faculty at Cornell University.  Shortly after moving to New York, two more children, Robert and Kenneth, would join the family. 

At the age of 36, James became the youngest department Chair ever at Cornell University, when he attained the role of Chairman of the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular, and Cell Biology in 1970. During his time at Cornell, Jim worked on cell membrane-bound enzymes, a body of work still heavily cited and utilized today.  While at Cornell, the family participated in two sabbaticals, one in Portland, Oregon and the other in Osaka, Japan. During those sabbaticals, Jim continued his cholesterol research, part of his molecular cell work, and advanced industry findings in the field. In 1977, James’ career in academics led him to a position as the Chairman of the Biochemistry Department at the University of Missouri-Columbia where his innovative work led that program to be one of the best in the nation.  Following that, he joined DuPont in Delaware to lead Biomedical Research and later at Johnson and Johnson in New Jersey as the Vice President of Science and Technology, Medical Research.  During that time he received multiple federal grants for his medical research mainly in the area of cholesterol.  He published over 150 articles and received numerous patents for his novel work on cholesterol synthesis.  His life’s work was in the chemical makeup of cholesterol where after many arduous years of research and development, he was instrumental in developing the Johnson and Johnson statin medication currently on the market. The last position James would hold prior to retirement was as a faculty member at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.  Following retirement, James and Marilyn moved back to Polk City, Iowa and built a home next to their life-long friends, the Harts.  James was very active in the First United Methodist Church in Newton. He also loved gardening and took pride in growing difficult flowers such as roses, orchids, and violets.

James is survived by his children, Douglas J. (Lisa) Gaylor of Shrub Oak, New York, Ann D (David) Rucker of Staunton, Illinois, Robert D Gaylor (Cassandra) of Ithaca, New York, and Kenneth A (Laura) Gaylor of Avendale, Pennsylvania; grandchildren, David J. (Kristie) Rucker of Staunton, Illinois, Bryan R. (Amanda) Rucker of New Douglas, Illinois, Kellie L. Rucker of Williamsville, Illinois, Cassandra P. Gaylor of Shrub Oak, New York, Logan Gaylor of Shrub Oak, New York, Reese A. Gaylor of Avendale, Pennsylvania, James D. “JD” Gaylor of Avendale, Pennsylvania, and Taavo Gaylor of Ithaca, New York; great-grandchildren, Jeffrey James “JJ” Rucker, Joleigh A Rucker, and Everett Noble Rucker; and his brother, David (Jill) Gaylor of Maine.  He was preceded in death by his parents; wife, Marilyn L. Gaylor in January of 2020; and his sister, Alice Gaylor.   

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