William P. Downs

William Paul Downs went home to be with his Lord on January 19, 2021.

A private family visitation was held and a memorial service will be at a later date.

William was born on March 30, 1929 in Marshalltown, Iowa. He was the youngest child of Earl and Clara Downs of Montour. Bill, as he liked to be called, had an older sister, Lucille, and two older brothers, Gordon and Jerry. The family had a farm on the edge of town so there were always chores to do. His mother ran the family dairy and Bill helped her deliver milk to the inhabitants of Montour. He also had a paper route that supplied spending money, which was good because Bill grew up during the Great Depression.

He went to school in Montour and by his own admission was, at best, an average student. The fact that he would sometimes play “hooky” to go fishing in the nearby Iowa River probably didn’t help matters much. Still, he was active in extracurricular activities including playing in the high school band and participating in baseball and basketball. It seems that he excelled in basketball, because his team made it to the state tournament.

It was at school that he met the love of his life, Ruth Hamiel, who had recently moved from Upper Michigan after the death of her mother. Bill and Ruth hit it off and dated for many years before marrying in 1948.

Bill was drafted during the Korean War, but was sent to Germany to serve with the occupation forces which patrolled Europe following WWII. Tensions were high at that time and he was quite sure that he would eventually be involved in a war with Russia, but mercifully it never happened. After his tour of duty he returned to the States to resume civilian life.

Bill had worked on the railroad since he was 16, so he once again found work with the Milwaukee Road after leaving the Army. Eventually good jobs with the railroad began to peter out so he relocated to Dubuque after landing a job with John Deere. He would spend the remainder of his working years at Deere’s, retiring in 1988.

He and Ruth had bought a beautiful farm near Balltown in 1965 where they would live for over 50 years.

The couple had two sons, Steven Earl born in 1955 and Paul Allan born in 1959.

In 1973 Bill surrendered his life to Jesus Christ and lived the remainder of his years as a committed Christian.

He and Ruth were very active in whatever church they were attending and both their sons participated in ministry related activities.

Bill loved road trips. Family vacations normally consisted of jumping in the car and driving somewhere far, far away. Usually the family camped out on these adventures. Later in life when the boys had left home, Bill and Ruth continued traveling all over the country. They even fulfilled one of Bill’s lifelong dreams when they drove the Alaskan Highway in their pickup camper.

Bill also loved the river and had numerous boats of varying descriptions over the years. Fishing and camping out on the islands was one of his favorite pastimes.

Bill was crazy about gardening. In fact, it was one of the principal reasons he bought the farm. Even when living in the trailer court in Sageville he had rented a plot of ground for a garden, but when he finally had land of his own he sort of went wild with gardens. At one point he had 5 different garden plots under cultivation. The result of all this unbridled agricultural enterprise was that he had far more produce than could be consumed by the family. Consequently, it was common for Bill and Ruth to give away vast quantities of top rate sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, green beans, squash, or whatever else happened to be ripening in their gardens.

By his own admission, Bill had a wonderful life, but after Ruth died in 2017 he was ready and anxious to join her in Heaven. His passing was a joyous event and any tears were only occasioned by the realization that he would no longer be with us.

Bill was preceded in death by his wife of 69 years, all of his siblings, his son, Paul, and one granddaughter, Melody. He is survived by his son Steven, 12 grandchildren: Jack, Sarajane, David, Daniel, Tommy, Harmony, Bonnie, Joy, William, Grace, Faith, and Andrew, and 9 great-grandchildren: Ella, Ava, Olivia, Abigail, Emily, Elias, Willow, Hope, and Hallelujah.

Bill’s family would like to thank the Nurses and Staff of Hospice of Dubuque for their compassionate care for Bill and his family and for the help and kindness of their close friends, Jeff and Cheryl Chiott.

The family will thankfully receive your support through phone calls, greeting cards and memorials in his memory which may be mailed to Behr Funeral Home, 1491 Main Street, Dubuque, Iowa 52001, Attn. William “Bill” Downs Family.

Online condolences may be left for the family at www.behrfuneralhome.com

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