Sept. 1, 1929 – Jan. 18, 2020
James F. “Jim” Lally came to Western New York in 1963 to join Kistler Instrument Co., a firm co-founded by his brother Robert, a former Bell Aircraft Corp. engineer. But when Kistler was sold and operations moved to Washington State four years later, the Lallys did not move with it.
“The product (the buyer) was interested in wasn’t what they were doing then,” his son David said.
Their focus was on high-tech sensing devices. Beginning in a basement, they started PCB Piezotronics, moved to a barn and eventually to a manufacturing plant on Walden Avenue in Depew.
They applied integrated circuit technology to piezoelectric sensors that monitor pressure, sound and vibration in cars, planes, ships, power plants and industrial processes. PCB grew to more than 1,000 employees with facilities in Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Utah.
Mr. Lally became president and chief executive officer, stepping back to an advisory role about 10 years ago and serving as chairman of the board. All five of his sons held executive positions with the company before it was sold in 2016 to MTS Systems. He continued as an adviser for two more years.
He died Jan. 18 in Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Amherst, after a year of declining health. He was 90.
Born in Springfield, Ill., he was the fourth of six children and the youngest of four boys. After his mother died in childbirth when he was 10, he helped look after and support his two younger sisters.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management from Millikin University in Decatur, Ill., and took graduate studies in business management at the University of Illinois. Before graduate school, he served two years in the Army, then six years in the Army Reserve.
At PCB Piezotronics, “customer service was his thing,” said his daughter-in-law Beverly Lally. “That’s what he hung his hat on.”
A longtime Clarence resident, he was devoted to his children and grandchildren and filmed all their sporting events and family gatherings on his video camera.
While his sons attended Clarence High School, he and his camera were a constant presence at football games. Three of his sons went on to play college football – John at Syracuse University, Michael at Cornell University and David at Bucknell University.
“He went to every single hockey game his grandchildren played,” Beverly said, “and taped every game. He narrated the videos, play by play.”
He enjoyed telling stories to his grandchildren, making breakfast feasts for them on weekends and taking road trips to visit those who had left the area.
He maintained a summer home on Keuka Lake and was a volunteer and fundraiser for the Glen Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport.
He also played in an over-40 softball league for several years and in a weekly bridge game with friends.
In 2015, he was presented with a lifetime achievement award at the 86th annual Shock and Vibration Symposium in Orlando, Fla.
The symposium program noted: “This award recognized Jim Lally’s years of dedication to providing dynamic sensor technology in blast, ballistics, shock, vibration, acoustics, strain, and dynamic force to the SAVE (Shock and Vibration Exchange) community. It also recognizes both his generous contributions to educational institutions and his professionalism in corporate interactions.”
His brother Robert died in January 2018.
Surviving are his wife of 56 years, the former Doris S. Stephenson; five sons, Kenneth, John, Richard, Michael and David; two sisters, MaryAnn Willson and Patricia Lally; 15 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 24, in Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church, 8500 Main St. at Harris Hill Road, Clarence.