November 3, 2018
James R. Downing 1SG (retired) of Framingham and Medway, Massachusetts, formerly of Lincoln, beloved husband of 58 years of the late María Tulia Downing, Ph.D., died November 3, 2018, three days shy of his 90th birthday. The only child of the late Mayor, Judge, and Railroad Station Master J.R. Downing Sr. and Lucile Nitzsche Downing, he was born at home in Odebolt, Iowa, in 1928 on election day. In his youth, he hand-dug the basement of his parents' home and did erosion control work along Missouri River stream banks.
Once his parents signed enlistment papers for him at the tender age of 17, his active Army and reserve military service spanned World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Assigned to Panama where he earned the nickname “Burn ‘Em Up” for his motorcycle antics, Jim met and married the former María Tulia Quirós Amador in Costa Rica where he was posted to a special assignment with the Interamerican Geodetic Survey (IAGS).
Eventually, Jim and his new bride returned to the U.S. He attended Iowa State University in Ames living with his family in a converted veterans' Quonset hut. Later, they moved to Salix, Iowa, where Jim's parents resided, and he graduated high school. This time around, he and his family lived in a former bank; and Jim commuted to Sioux City in order to complete his bachelor's degree from Morningside College, while also working nights at Swift's meat-packing company.
He sold insurance for a short time until hired by the Veteran's Administration (VA) Regional Office in Lincoln and worked there as a claims examiner, and eventually a rating board specialist after completing a distance learning law degree from La Salle Extension University of Chicago.
At the Lincoln VA, Jim founded and was president of their first Government Employee's Union (Lodge 2200), was president of the Lincoln-Omaha American Federation of Government Employees and instrumental in having Civil Service Week proclaimed by then Nebraska Governor Frank Morrison. While in the Army, he was honored to serve with both General Matthew Ridgway in Panama and the future University of Nebraska Head Football Coach, Athletic Director, and Representative Dr. Tom Osborne. In Panama, he also met and flew with Jimmie Angel, discoverer of Angel Falls, Venezuela, the world's tallest waterfall.
A former member of Toastmasters and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a man of quiet faith, he loved to fish, garden, and give away the fruits of his labor, to enjoy cigars and spirits (but gave both those up), chocolate and coffee, to listen to jazz, blues and the news, and to tell jokes. Having come through the Great Depression, frugality was second nature to him! And, being way ahead of his time, he gleefully showed off his solar water heating system for their home, invested in the electric company's wind turbines, and also constructed a large geodesic-domed greenhouse.
When Jim and María Tulia moved to Medway in 2006, he discovered the Senior Center and spent many happy hours there. His quiet faith philosophy was that rather than ask God for things, he started each day thanking God for everything he had been given, good and not so good. In this philosophy, he was influenced by St. Paul's exhortation to “give thanks in all circumstances” and by Power in Praise, a book written in the 1970's by another military acquaintance, Rev. Merlin Carothers.
Greatly loved, he will be greatly missed and is survived by his daughters Elizabeth (Gary) Estler of Medway, Rose (Terry) Russell of Colorado, and Marti Downing of San Francisco; granddaughter Jennifer Russell of Colorado; cousins in Iowa & throughout the U.S.; sisters-in-law María Rosa Quirós of Los Angeles and Cecelia (Seth) Easley of Arizona; as well as numerous nieces and nephews-in-law, family, & friends around the globe. Godspeed Daddy! Until we meet again!
Services will be held at noon on Friday, November 9, in the Ginley Crowley Funeral Home, 3 Barber Street, Medway (www.ginleyfuneralhomes.com). Interment will be in St. Joseph Parish Cemetery, Medway, Massachusetts. Visitation will be from 11 a.m. to noon and collation at 1 p.m. on Friday at Restaurant 45 in Medway. The family would be pleased if you sign the guest book. If desired, memorials to Medway Senior Center, 76 Oakland Street, Medway, MA 02053.