Dean Downey is Dead, Part 1

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks 
Week Thirteen:  "In the News." Have you used newspapers in your research?   

I hit the jackpot with this front page
I have used newspapers in my research for a number of things: To learn about the time and place my ancestors lived—the culture, the political issues, the economy, the population. Newspapers shed light on all these topics in all its pages, including news stories, retail ads, want ads, wedding and engagement announcements, the society page, the op-ed page, the sports page and the obituaries.

I confess, I have used obituaries more than anything else to help build narrative arcs for individual ancestors. I hit the jackpot when I ran across the Border Cities Star April 9, 1926 Final Edition. The entire front page of this Canadian newspaper, which served the cities of Riverside, Ford, Walkerville, Windsor, Sandwich, Ojibway and LaSalle, was dedicated to the death announcement of my great-great uncle, Dennis J. Downey. The two center columns on page three of that same edition were filled with tributes from those who knew him.

(Note: The following subheads and nutgraph preceded the body of the article) 

Heart Attack Ends Life of Best Loved Priest at Border Funeral Services Tuesday Morning for Dean of Windsor; Bishop Fallon Will Sing Solemn Requiem Mass 
Catholic Father Found Trying to Rise This Morning;
Aware of Coming Death, Receives Last Sacraments of Church 

The Very Rev. D.J. Downey, Dean of Windsor and for the past 12 years pastor of St. Alphonsus’ Roman Catholic Church, died at his Park street residence at 9:25 o’clock this morning following a heart attack at 9 o’clock.

Funeral services will be held Tuesday morning at 10 o’clock at St. Alphonsus, for the Border’s most beloved priest. Solemn Requiem Mass will be sung at that hour by Rt. Rev. M.F. Fallon, D.D., Bishop of London and intimate friend of Dean Downey. 

Was Loved by All 
Although he had not been in the best of health for some time, the death of Dean Downey comes as a distinct shock to the entire Border Cities, for the pastor of St. Alphonsus was loved by all—Catholic, Protestant and Jewish.

Last night Dean Downey took a short ride in his car and on the way home stopped at the office of his physician, Dr. U. J. Durocher, who told the dean that he was in a serious condition.

When he returned home, he did not make any complaint to either Rev. Frs. J. E. Pageau or J. N. Fogarty, assistant pastors of St. Alphonsus, and they did not know of his condition. The dean retired at his usual hour and nothing was known of the fatal heart attack until nine o’clock this morning when he was discovered trying to arise from the floor of his bedroom in the rectory adjoining the church on Park street east. 

Asks Last Sacraments 
Dean Downey was assisted back into bed and asked that the Last Sacraments of the church be administered to him immediately. This was done. The dean expired a few minutes later, death coming at 9:25. The dean was conscious to the end and did not seem in any pain. He appeared to be aware that the end was approaching.

The fatal attack followed a heart illness which had pursued Dean Downey for some years. Two years ago, last Christmas, the dean was stricken with a heart attack and was in a serious condition for more than a week. Following his recovery, he spent several weeks in Florida with Bishop Fallon, and upon his return apparently had recovered his health. 

No Complaint of Health 
This winter Dean Downey also went to Florida with the bishop, returning three weeks ago. Although not feeling in the best of health, he made no complaints to his friends or assistants at St. Alphonsus.

Bishop Fallon was informed by long distance telephone of Dean Downey’ death. His lordship has no telephone at his episcopal residence at London and word was sent to him through Very Rev. Mgsr. Dennis O’Connor, vicar-general of the diocese.

When told of the dean’s death, the bishop broke down, according to word received at St. Alphonsus rectory. He sent instructions through Monsignor O’Connor to have the funeral services at 10 a.m. Tuesday. 

Fr. Pageau in Charge 
Bishop Fallon stated that he would personally sing the Requiem Mass. The shock attending the news of the dean’s death was so great that his lordship could only give directions as to the time of the funeral and stated that if he was able, he would also preach the funeral sermon. Through Monsignor O’ Connor, Bishop Fallon delegated Rev. Fr. J. E. Pageau to take charge of the funeral arrangements.

The body of the dead dean will lie in state at  St. Alphonsus for some time previous to the funeral, the time not yet having been decided upon. 

Came Here in 1901 
The late Dean Downey first came to Windsor in 1901 as assistant to the Rt. Rev. Monsignor Meunier, the pastor of St. Alphonsus. The dean was sent to the Border Cities to organize a new parish in the east end of Windsor. After three years, he had succeeded in his task, having completed the formation of the  Immaculate Conception, Wyandotte street, and then left St. Alphonsus to take charge of the parish which he had built by his own efforts. 

Native of Ontario 
Dean Downey was a native of St. Columbo [sic] (Note: Should be St. Columban) then known as Irish Town and at L’Assumption College, Quebec, completing his theological studies at the Grand Seminary, Montreal. The dean was ordained a priest at St. Peter’s Cathedral, London, December 26, 1893, by the late Bishop Dennis O’Connor, later archbishop of Toronto.

Following his ordination, the young priest was assigned as curate to the Roman Catholic parish in Stratford, of which the late Rev. Dr. Kilroy, a native of Windsor, was pastor.

From Stratford, he was sent to the parish which comprised the towns of Logan and Mitchell, where the young priest constructed a large church at Logan. From that charge, he came to the Border Cities in 1901, and had spent the last quarter of a century here.

Dean Downey played an active part in many civic and social organizations in Windsor and the Border Cities, and was loved by all who knew him. He was, at the time of his death active in the Border Chamber of Commerce, Beach Grove Golf and Country Club, the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Mutual Benefit Association, all of which he was a member. He also played a prominent part in the work of Goodfellows Club and the various social service activities of the city.

Three brothers and two sisters survive, all of whom have been notified of the dean’s death. They are: Stephen, Portland, Ore.; Michael, St. Columbo; John, Detroit; Mrs. J. Neville, Sarnia; and Mrs. William Devereaux, of Seaforth, Ont.

John Downey, of Detroit, the youngest member of the dean’s immediate family, was a visitor at St. Alphonsus rectory last night, when the seriousness of the dean’s condition was not known. All the brothers and sisters are expected to be present at the funeral services Tuesday.

Requiem Masses for the repose of the soul of the late Dean Downey will be sung in all Borders Cities Catholic Churches within the next few days. The first will be sung Saturday morning at 8 o’clock at St. Clare’s Church, Bruce avenue and Shepherd, by Rev. Fr. E. G. Doe, pastor of St. Clare’s and a former assistant to Dean Downey at Immaculate Conception Church.

(Note: The following sidebar article was Special to the Border Cities Star from London, Ontario) 

Bishop Grieves as Death Claims One of Best Friends 
Head of Roman Catholic Diocese Lauds Work of Dean Downey and Laments Passing as That of Close Associate in Church 
Father Fallon Recalls Parish Founding; Looks Back to Annual Visits in Florida Together; Dean Stanley Joins in Tribute to Dead 
News of the death of Dean Downey in Windsor was received by Bishop M. F. Fallon this morning with regret, not alone at the loss of one of the most valued priests in the diocese, but also because of the great personal friendship between His Lordship and the Windsor pastor. 

Lost Valued Priest 
“I have lost one of my most valued priests and one of my closest personal associates,” Bishop Fallon told The Border Cities Star in an interview given soon after notification of the dean’s death had been transmitted to His Lordship. “In the 33 years of priesthood in this diocese his life has been marked by enlightened zeal and constant activity.

“Apart from his work as an assistant in various parishes, he built a church and house at the parish of Logan, founded the parish of the Immaculate Conception in Windsor and built a house and church there. During his direction of the parish of St. Alphonsus in Windsor, he erected the splendid St. Alphonsus Hall, decorated St. Alphonsus Church and submitted to me somewhat over two years ago that a new parish should be erected within the territory. As a consequence, the parish of St. Clair was erected and is already flourishing. 

Gave $5,000 To Seminary 
“His latest act of benefaction was to contribute $5,000 personally to St. Peters seminary, London, for the education in perpetuity of young men to the Catholic priesthood. Thousands of people in all parts of the diocese have had personal experience of what I can speak of only from observation—his religious zeal, his service of the people, his devotion to Catholic education, and his valuable sympathy and judgment given to those in sorrow and distress.

“My personal loss I must not emphasize. Perhaps it is enough to say that we spent two months of each of the past three winters in Florida, in the most intimate friendship, where knowing his physical condition and the grave danger that constantly menaced him, I insisted that he should accompany me.

“It is only a few days since I left him in Windsor on our return north and I am at the moment unable to realize that our parting on that occasion at the Railway Station was a final goodbye as far as this world is concerned.” 

Dean Stanley Sorrows 
Dean Stanley, rector of St. Peter’s Cathedral, London, also expressed his great regret in a tribute to Dean Downey.

“I was greatly shocked to hear of the sudden death of Dean Downey,” he said. “For 33 years, we had been close personal friends. We were assistants together in 1901 and 1902 to Monsignor Meunier in Windsor and during our time in that parish I learned to know and love him and to be deeply edified by his priestly zeal. He was one of the finest men I ever knew and had as the outstanding mark of his fine character a most striking devotion to the sick and afflicted. I feel keenly the loss both as regards our personal friendship and the diocese.

“Dean Downey, I understood, was sent to Windsor originally in response to the request of Msgr. Meunier, who recognized the value of his splendid qualities not the least of which, in that parish, was his equal proficiency in the use of both English and French languages.” 

Judge Gundy Pays Tribute 
Tributes to the late Very Rev. D. J. Downey and William Englander were voiced from his bench in Windsor police court is morning by Judge W. E. Gundy.

Speaking at the conclusion of court, he said, “I was very much shocked to learn of the passing yesterday of Mr. Englander, one of our oldest interpreters, who died very suddenly at the hospital. He has been interpreter in this court ever since I’ve been sitting here, and was a man in whom I had implicit confidence, holding, as he did, one of the positions that requires the confidence of the court in no small degree.

“Mr. Englander’s career in the Border Cities won him the respect of the public at large and I’m sure the news of his death was received with extreme regret.

“I was also deeply shocked upon coming into court to learn of the sudden death of very Rev. Dean Downey. I regarded him as a very dear friend, and he was a man whose influence in this community has undoubtedly been very wide. His loss will be felt to a very large extent throughout the whole local district.”

Tributes to Dean D. J. Downey took up a good portion of The Star's page 3 on April 13, 1926

(Note: The following copy is from page 3 of the April 9, 1926 edition of the Border Cities Star) 

border Unites in Tribute to Dean 
Clergy, Professional and Businessmen are Warm in Praises of Late Father Downey 
The sudden death of Very Rev Dean D. J. Downey came as a great shock to his many friends in the Border Cities this morning. The extent of his popularity with all classes can be gathered from the following tributes. 

Alderman W. J. Douglas, acting mayor of Windsor.
In the absence of Mayor Mitchell the duty devotes upon me as acting mayor to express on behalf of the citizens of this municipality widespread regret at the severe loss sustained in the untimely demise of the Very Reverend Dean Downey. The sympathy of the whole community goes out to the parishioners of St. Alphonsus Church in the loss they have suffered by the death of their beloved pastor and spiritual adviser, a man who fulfilled the responsibilities of his exalted office with dignity and large-heartedness and whose brilliant intellect was of inestimable service to the citizens as a whole. During his many years of service here he identified himself with numerous public undertakings, showing characteristic zeal, regardless of class, religion or politics, giving of his time and unusual abilities unsparingly and doing his part as a citizen to promote the general welfare with a community spirit of forbearance and friendship. 

Myron R. Gilbert, manager of the Prince Edward Hotel was one of Dean Downey’s closest friends. When seen by The Star this morning, Mr. Gilbert was too overcome to say anything. The loss of his friend is the worst blow Mr. Gilbert has experienced in long years. 

A.J. St. Louis, Mayor of Riverside.
It is hard for me to express myself. The loss of Dean Downey will be sorely felt by everyone in the Border Cities. He has always been known for his good works. He was a good friend and never missed the opportunity to be of assistance to anyone in need. 

Alex McKee, Mayor of Sandwich.
Father Downey was one of the finest members of the clergy that it was ever my privilege to meet. He was always affable and pleasant. I did not know him intimately but I had met him on occasion. He was ever polite and kind. He was a splendid credit to the church. 

Frank W. Wilson, Member of the Legislative Assembly.
The death of Dean Downey s a very great loss that will be keenly felt no only by his own parishioners but by the public at large. He was a natural leader of men with a “large heart,” who instinctively looked at all questions with a sympathetic view and in a broad manner. 

Robert Calderwood,  Mayor of Walkerville.
I did not know Dean Downey personally but I do know that his loss will be a severe blow to the Border Cities, and particularly to his church. 

Very Rev. Father D. L. Dillon, B. A., President of Assumption College.
I have known Dean Downey for four years. He was an exemplary priest and one of the most prominent clergymen in the London diocese. St. Alphonsus parish, of which Father Downey has been pastor for 15 years, is one of the largest and best organized in Western Ontario. The dean’s affability won him many friends. His good will towards Assumption College was manifested by the donation of an annual prize. 

Ulysses G. Reaume, Reeve of Ford City.
I was greatly shocked to hear of the death of The Very Rev. Dean Downey. I have known him for a great many years, and know the amount of good he has done for the Border. The community has suffered a distinct loss in his passing. 

Rev. H. M. Paulin, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.
I share with the whole community the deep sorrow which must be felt at the sudden death of Dean Downey. His long residence here, his genial humor and his kindly bearing made him so well-known and so intimately a part of the place that his absence will be keenly felt. I extend my sympathy to his parish, to his diocese and to his bishop, who has lost such a good friend and faithful servant of the church. 

Rev. A. J. Thomas, Central United Church.
I wish to express  the sympathy of myself and of my congregation, not only to St. Alphonsus Church but to the whole community in the loss that has been suffered by the sudden death of Dean Downey. Although I was not personally acquainted with him, I know much of his good works and kindly acts. 

Mrs. John R. Boyde, 808 Oulette avenue.
Dean Downey was the most wonderful man. Everyone in the whole parish is heartsick over his sudden death. He was always ready to go whenever any of his people called. It did not matter at what time of the day or night it might be, Dean Downey would go at once if he thought he was wanted. He was fond of his people, and his people were all fond of him. 

Ed Tellier, Member of the Legislative Assembly, Belle River.
We have lost a very valuable man in Dean Downey. His sudden death is not only a loss to the church but it is also a loss to the public. He was a man of good judgement and one who took a keen interest in the affairs of the country. Everyone liked him. He was always interested in social welfare and was a man without prejudices. His death comes as a great surprise and it will be deeply regretted by everyone who knew him. To know Dean Downey was to love him. 

W. J. Burns, president-elect of the Border Cities Rotary Club.
I thought a great deal of Dean Downey. He was a democratic and broad-minded man who was liked and respected by everyone who knew him. 

Colonel H. R. Casgrain 
Dean Downey was indefatigable in the discharge of the duties of his calling. He was always kind, sympathetic and willing to help anyone who was in trouble. Dean Downey, beloved by all, was known as the Church Builder. He was a man of excellent tastes, and a lover of the arts, music, painting and sculpture. Christian education was his hobby, and he was responsible for bringing the Christian Brotherhood here. Dean Downey was also devoted to the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, ever seeking to aid in the work of those organizations. He was an ardent Imperialist and during the war was very active. When Dean Downey came here, the bilingual question was at its height, but by his reasoning, coupled with his generous and liberal spirit, a crisis was avoided in the parish between the two nationalities. He was a man of great piety and zeal. His passing at this time comes as a great loss to the community. 

George Hanrahan, master of the fourth degree, Knights of Columbus.
I can only say what everyone is thinking about the sudden death of Dean Downey. His loss will be a sad blow to the Border Cities and to the diocese. There was always an unusual devotion existing between Dean Downey and his parishioners. That was due to the sincerity and kindliness of our late pastor. He was loved by everyone. He was interested in the special welfare of all and there was never a moment when he was not thinking of his parish and its needs. 

Joseph P. Casgrain, postmaster.
The passing of Dean Downey comes as a great loss to the community, for he was a man beloved by all. He was a tireless worker, never failing to lend a helping hand to the needy. His work here will be long remembered, for he accomplished much by indefatigable devotion to his calling. 

Mrs. John Davis, 755 Ouellette avenue
I have worked with Father Downey for many years as president of the Altar Society. It would be impossible to know a finer priest. As pastor of St. Alphonsus Church, he has endeared himself to every member of his parish. He was always at the call of his people. Not only was he a factor in their religious life, but he was always interested in the social welfare of his parishioners. His loss will be a severe blow to his church and to the Border Cities. 

Dr. J. O. Reaume 
Dean Downey was an ideal man. He was big-hearted, generous and fond of clean outdoor sports. Everyone knew him and everyone loved him. He was a good pastor, a wise councilor, a splendid administrator, and his loss will be a dreadful blow to the parish. He was a man whom everyone admired. 

Mrs. M. A. McHugh, 1045 Ouellette avenue
Everyone is in grief over the sudden death of Dean Downey. I was always a sincere friend of his. Ever since the Dean took charge of St. Alphonsus Church and even before that as curate in the parish, I knew him and worked with him. He has been a close friend and a wise adviser of his people. He was wholly and entirely engrossed in the welfare of his parish. During the war Dean Downey was particularly devoted to the public welfare. In those years he worked unceasingly. His death will be mourned not only by the members of his parish, but by everyone in the Border Cities. 

Mrs. A. Phi. E. Panet, 418 Chatham street West
The sudden death of Dean Downey is distressing. He will be very difficult to replace. I knew him and worked with him when he was a curate in Windsor and since he was appointed to the pastorate of St. Alphonsus. He was a man whom everybody loved and who will be sincerely missed by everyone. 

Miss Martha Dickinson, City Clerk
In my work I have always had the most pleasant associations with Dean Downey. His affable manner and pleasing smile always brought a note of cheer. He was a man of wonderful personality and one who was always deeply interested in the welfare of the community. His loss will be sorely felt by everyone. 

James Wall, Quality Canners
I am at a loss to say anything about the sudden death of Dean Downey. He was a close personally friend of mine and for the past eleven years I had been closely associated with him in his work. I have the most fond recollections of him as a priest, as a counselor and as a friend. His loss will be felt by everyone in the Border Cities. 

Lt.-Col. W. L. McGregor, president, Border Chamber of Commerce
The sudden death of Dean Downey will be a great loss to the community. He was always identified with the Border Cities in a large way. He was a man of good judgment and broadminded. His death will be regretted by every citizen. 

Eugene Janisse, president, Border Cities Real Estate Board
I deeply regret the sudden passing away of Dean Downey. For nearly a score of years he has been identified with the Border Cities. He has been an enthusiastic supporter of every project meant for the social and moral welfare of the community. The parish of St. Alphonsus has suffered a tremendous blow. The Border Cities have lost a good citizen. His death will be mourned by all. 

Ellison Young, managing editor, The Border Cities Star 
In the death of the Very Rev. Dean D. J. Downey I have lost not only a very close personal friend, but The Star has lost one of its best friends and supporters. His sudden death is a great loss to the community. He was one of our most eminent citizens. 

Robert J. Sallans, president, Kiwanis Club
Dean Downey’s sudden death will be regretted deeply by everyone in the Border Cities. He was loved by his own parishioners and he was respected by everyone who had the privilege of knowing him. His fifteen years of work in the community has been marked with distinct success. The Kiwanis Club extends its sympathy to his parish and to his diocese. 

Cleveland Mousseau, Mayor of Ford City
The news of Dean Downey’s death came to me as a great shock. His loss is a severe blow to the community. His parish will miss him greatly. Father Downey was always vitally interested in the social as well as the religious welfare of his parishioners. He was a great factor in the welfare of the Border Cities.


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