One doesn’t have to spend too much time in Robert “Bob” Downey’s cozy home in Marion to notice that “family” was at the very heart of everything Bob’s wife of 60 years, Joann E. Downey did throughout her life as wife, mother, friend, and healer.
“She grew up in a small, quiet family so it was important for her to have a big, loving home” says Bob, “she was the center wheel of our family.”
Born in Edgewood, Iowa in 1933, Joann married Bob just before her 18th birthday and by 23 already had six of her soon to be eight children. Proud of her German/Austrian background and hereditary longevity (Joann’s mother, fondly referred to as “Grandma Olaf”, lived to be 100 years old), Joann Downey fully expected to live to see 100 years herself, says sons Kurt and David Downey.
“Until she passed, she was the picture of health…and beauty,” says David. “She was a person that was rarely sick and she took such good care of herself. Her illness came as such a shock to our family.”
When a local attorney suggested that the Downey family speak to the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation about setting up a fund to honor their mother’s memory, David and his brother Kurt took the lead.
“Mom was the matriarch of 40-something people,” says David. “We would never want her to be forgotten.”
In the spirit of their mother’s quiet generosity, Bob, David and Kurt met with the Community Foundation in October 2011 to set up The Joann Elizabeth Downey Fund with the hope that it would be a way for the entire family to remember their mother each year.
“You don’t have to have a lot of money to leave a legacy for yourself or for a loved one, as we are doing,” says Kurt. “The Community Foundation gives you time.” Because the Downey family decided to give through the Community Foundation, they were also able to take advantage of Endow Iowa Tax Credits which allowed them to claim state income tax credits worth 25 percent of the amount of their gift.
According to Kurt, “This fund gives us something. Our mother was a giver. It is our way of saying we miss her.”