Dr. Howard Judson Rees was born on the 19th of October, 1925 at the Toronto Public General Hospital. He was named after his mother’s brother, Howard Judson Keys who died of meningitis at the age of 19 months old. Dr. Rees attended Weston Public School and Weston Collegiate Institute prior to attending university. As a teenager, Dr. Rees worked at the Weston Golf and Curling Club as both a caddy and a groundskeeper.
Dr. Rees graduated M.D. from The University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine in June of 1951. In 1952 he completed an internship at St. Josephs Hospital in Toronto. That same year, he began his medical career as a general practitioner in Palmerston, Ontario, where he joined the practice of Dr. John Riddell.
Dr. Rees moved to Chatham-Kent when he learned, through a travelling drug representative, that the Blenheim practice of Dr. John Watson Pickering was for sale. Dr. Rees purchased the practice, located at 7 Chatham Street S., and he moved to Blenheim in 1956. His mother Marjorie (Keys) Rees also moved to Blenheim to be his office nurse. She had graduated from the Toronto General Hospital School for Nurses in 1919.
Dr. Rees continued to serve the Blenheim area as a family physician until his retirement on the 12th of March, 1996. An open house and dinner was held on the 16th of March, 1996 providing an opportunity for the community to say thank you and to share memories of 40 years of dedicated service. In an article published in the Blenheim News Tribune on the 20th of March, 1996, Dr. Rees recalled doing his hospital rounds in the morning and making house calls in the afternoon as far away as Port Alma to the west and Rodney (Elgin County) to the east.
Dr. Rees’ vision of supporting his community was realized by the creation of the Howard J. Rees Foundation in 1987. The Foundation was established to support the arts, health and education in the Blenheim area. Since its inception, the foundation has provided academic scholarships, assisted in the expansion of the Gable Rees Rotary Pool in Blenheim and made it possible for school-aged children to receive swimming lessons.
In 1994, Dr. Rees was awarded a Lifetime Membership in the Ontario Medical Association. The Blenheim & District Chamber of Commerce presented Dr. Rees with the honour of Citizen of the Year for his contributions to the community in 1999. In 2002 Dr. Rees received The Queen’s Jubilee Medal. The medal was created to mark the 50th anniversary of the accession to the throne of her majesty, Queen Elizabeth II on the 6th of February, 1952. Recipients of the medal were chosen based on their contributions to Canada and to their communities or to fellow Canadians. Also in 2002, Dr Rees was recognized with the Glen Sawyer Service Award for his many contributions to Chatham-Kent and for his dedication to the medical profession.
In 2008, through the support of the Howard J. Rees Foundation, the Chatham-Kent Physician Tribute Website was created (www.ckphysiciantribute.ca). The goal of the website is to provide recognition of the many dedicated physicians who have served within Chatham-Kent.
On the 16th of January, 2009 the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance named the computer lab in the hospital library, the Howard J. Rees M.D. Learning Centre at a well-attended ceremony, paying tribute for the gifts that Dr. Rees had made to the hospital over the years.
In his spare time, Dr. Rees enjoyed gardening, stamp collecting and travelling with his companion Joan Boyes.
Dr. Rees died on the 9th of February, 2010. He was buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Blenheim.
*Dr. John Watson Pickering is also featured on the Chatham-Kent Physician Tribute website.