We wish to express gratitude to the many friends and customers who extended their good wishes, prayers, and help to our dad, Jack Downer, in the past two months. Because his cancer attacked so quickly, he could not accept visitors or thank you personally. But he enjoyed every card and every expression of love and support from you and appreciated them all.
In the days before his passing, our father specifically requested that his memorial be a private and simple graveside service, with only our family members in attendance. It was not that he intended to slight any friend, but only that he was modest by nature. In Jack's words, he wanted "no hoopla." All of you who know him will understand. Your acts of kindness were hoopla enough.
Our father lived an amazing life. Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Dec. 17, 1921, his full name was John David Downer. His parents were native Iowans. His college career at Iowa State University was interrupted by World War II. He became a fighter pilot for the U.S. Army Air Corps and rose to the rank of captain. Dad walked away from his first plane crash while learning emergency landing techniques, a lesson that years later saved two lives while he was piloting a civilian craft over Klamath Falls. During the war he survived a second plane crash as well as countless enemy attempts from the ground and from the air to shoot him down.
After the war, Jack joined an Army buddy at the University of Washington, where he graduated with a degree in physics. A college friend helped him find him a job bucking logs for Weyerhaeuser in Southwest Washington. While working in the woods, he spent weekends at the Monticello Hotel in Longview, where he met the hotel restaurant's head hostess, Lucille Smith. She became his wife and best friend of 53 years. The company saw enough potential in him that in 1954, it sent him to Yale University for postgraduate study before assigning him the task of inventorying its timber holdings in the Willapa Hills in anticipation of building a pulp mill at Cosmopolis. His employment with Weyerhaeuser turned into an executive career, including his being in charge of the company's plywood plant and both sawmills in Longview.
On May 23, 1969, after 22 years of service with Weyerhaeuser, Jack was fired. He and Lucille quickly assessed their career options and by Aug. 1, 1969 went into debt to buy Henrichsen's Grocery, a tiny store in Ocean Park. They renamed it Jack's Country Store and borrowed more money to expand the store twice in 1970. There were dark days in that first year when a competitor opened and business declined. Jack underwent difficult back surgery, and it was doubtful that the store would survive. But Jack's motto that "no problem is insurmountable" simply meant that he and Lucille would work relentlessly. The store expanded again in 1971, 1974, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1985, 1993 and 1999, and it thrived.
Jack believed in public service of all kinds. He joined and later presided over the Ocean Park Chamber of Commerce. A lifelong Republican, in 1976 he ran for Pacific County Commissioner. Although he lost to the incumbent, he won more votes in the county than any other GOP candidate, including President Gerald Ford. Jack later joined the Ilwaco/Long Beach Kiwanis Club, serving as its president for a time. Jack was elected to, and later presided over, the Ocean Beach School Board. He remained politically active until the very end.
As a child, our father was taught the respect for nature. Perhaps his attraction to working in the woods for Weyerhaeuser reflected his love for the outdoors. He became an avid steelhead fisherman and taught each of us, one by one, to fish, and to share his contempt for waste. We "young 'uns" decided about ten years ago that we would teach Dad to fish for sturgeon, but he soon reminded us of who was master of the art. He joined us for the last time in February of this year.
The cancer that claimed him had a worthy opponent. Jack fought the disease courageously and with all his might.
In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be sent to the Ocean Beach Education Foundation.
We are proud and grateful to be his sons.
John Downer, Jr.