Owen Dawes Nee Jr., Bronze Star recipient, distinguished attorney, law professor, loving husband, father, and grandfather passed away in Concord, Mass. on May 7, 2021 after a short battle with pulmonary fibrosis.
Born on November 22, 1943 in Bronxville, N.Y., he was the son of Elizabeth (Osborne) and Owen Dawes Nee. He attended The Loomis School in Windsor, Conn. and then Princeton University, from which he graduated with a B.A. as a proud member of the class of 1965. Through the Princeton in Asia program, he spent two years teaching English at the Chinese University of Hong Kong where he met the love of his life, Amber Wong, then a student there.
Returning to the United States in 1967 to commence law school at Columbia University, he attended for a year before being commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army in 1968. He served in Military Intelligence in Vietnam from 1970-71, earning a Bronze Star for “sound judgment, versatility, and stamina under conditions of stress and hardship,” and for contributing greatly “to the effectiveness of allied intelligence operations in the Republic of Vietnam.”
In 1971, he returned to Rye, N.Y., where his parents had moved while he was in college. That December, he married Amber Wong, and resumed law school, graduating in 1973 as an editor of the Columbia Law Review.
Joining the international law firm Coudert Brothers after graduation, Mr. Nee entered the firm’s new office in Hong Kong a year after Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China. From there, he launched a career that featured a series of “firsts”, including: participating in the March, 1979 conference where the Equity Joint Venture Law was written to allow commercial relations between China and the United States to resume formally for the first time since 1949; leading the opening of the first foreign law office in China; advising on the automotive joint venture between General Motors Corporation and the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation, and writing the contractual joint ventures that brought Coca- Cola and McDonald’s to China.
He generously shared the wisdom of his experiences with generations of lawyers, mentoring so many younger colleagues at Coudert that a number of the leading foreign and domestic law firms in China today initially built their practices with lawyers trained at Coudert China. Before he retired, he oversaw the merger of Coudert China with Orrick, Herrington, and Sutcliffe.
In retirement, he established his own firm, InReNee, which specialized in pro bono legal work for fellow U.S. veterans. Additionally, Mr. Nee wrote four textbooks and taught courses on commercial and investment transactions with China at Columbia and NYU Law schools.
Mr. Nee relished his role as a mentor outside the field of law as well. As a trustee of the Princeton-in-Asia program, a deacon of the Union Church, Hong Kong, a deacon and trustee of Rye Presbyterian Church, and a volunteer in the Coming Home Program run by the church in Rye to assist those formerly incarcerated in their transition back to their communities, he generously shared his time, energy, and guidance.
His family benefited from his insights and passions, too, whether he was dispensing invaluable advice on life or careers, engaging in spirited debates about history (the American Revolution and the U.S. Civil War were topics of particular interest), or explaining Newton’s Third Law or Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to grandchildren being homeschooled via Zoom because of Covid-19 shutdowns.
An enthusiastic golfer, a connoisseur of Irish whiskeys and American country music, and a sartorially distinguished presence at every party, he will be dearly missed by his wife of nearly fifty years, Amber Nee; his brother, John Nee and his wife Jane of Greensboro, N.C.; his children, Alexandra Nee of Alexandria, Va., and Claire Nee Nelson and her husband, Joshua Nelson, and his grandchildren, Genevieve, Elisabeth, and Oliver Nelson of Concord, Mass. He was predeceased by his son, David Nee, with whom he is likely now sharing a drink and a laugh.
A memorial service will be held at Rye Presbyterian Church, on Saturday, May 22 at 10:30 a.m. It will also be live streamed via Zoom; if you wish to attend remotely, refer to the church website or call for a link.
Memorial donations be directed to three causes close to Owen Nee’s heart: the Coming Home Program at Rye Presbyterian Church (attn: Dr. John Miller), the Mission Fund at Rye Presbyterian Church (attn: Rev. Dan Love), and the not-for-profit organization that transformed his life, Princeton in Asia.