Published August 5, 2021
WINDER—Deacon Richard Downey, who had served at St. Lawrence Church, Lawrenceville, died July 17. He was 83 years old.
Known to many as “Dick,” he was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on March 27, 1938, along with his twin brother Bob, the middle children in a family of four boys of Headley and Helen Bennett Downey. He graduated from Ann Arbor High School as an outstanding football athlete and was awarded a football scholarship to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.
Soon he met his future wife of 61 years, Carol. He studied special education and became first a teacher, then a mid-level administrator, after which he completed his Ph.D with two majors in educational administration and special education administration. After a few years of university teaching as an assistant professor at Northern Illinois University, the family moved to Georgia where the deacon served children with disabilities and their families in the northern 22 counties of Georgia as Special Education Director for the Northeast CESA, a regional state educational agency. Following this, he served as Special Education Director for Duval and Palm Beach counties in Florida, Marana School District in Arizona and eventually Gwinnett County.
Throughout his distinguished career in public education and after he retired, he taught as an adjunct at Southern Illinois University, North Georgia College (now University), the University of Georgia, Brenau University and Campbellsville University in Kentucky.
Following his public school retirement in 2001, Dick was asked to assume the chairmanship of the Department of Education at Midway College in Kentucky where he led the department in gaining national accreditation. He had several honors and awards during his years in education including being selected Special Education Director of the Year in Georgia by the vote of his colleagues throughout the state.
Soon after his retirement, Downey, with counsel and spiritual direction of his good friend, Father Al Jowdy, felt that God was calling him to the diaconate. He continued a year of discernment with the Archdiocese of Atlanta and with the move to Kentucky, was permitted to finish the final four years of formation with the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky.
Following his ordination, Deacon Downey served the people of St. Leo’s Parish in Versailles, Kentucky and worked with an outreach organization in the far eastern counties of Kentucky for one year. In the final move back to Georgia, Dick was assigned as a deacon at St. Lawrence Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia until he retired due to health reasons.
The deacon’s life was one of service to others. He truly treasured working with families, serving at Mass, counseling young couples, and writing and preaching his homilies.
Deacon Downey was a kind and gentle soul and very important to him was his family—his wife Carol; oldest son Christopher Paul who preceded him in death in 2015; his beloved daughter, Meaghan; and his youngest son, Stephen; grandson Brayden; his brother David (Kathy) and two brothers who preceded him in death, twin brother Bob and older brother Harold.
The deacon loved being outdoors and was a football fan, especially of the Michigan Wolverines, or the Georgia Bulldogs. In his later years, due to a stroke suffered in 2011, he became an even more avid reader and was almost permanently attached to his Kindle.
A funeral Mass was July 26 at St. Lawrence Church in Lawrenceville. Committal followed immediately in the columbarium in the church’s courtyard.
Memorial contributions may be donated to St. Lawrence Church, St. Vincent de Paul Society.