John D. Downes Jr., who was 102 years old, passed in his sleep while a patient at NHC in Athens on April 9, 2021. John had been fighting a bone marrow disease for some time and failing health. John started his career in horticulture at West Virginia University, where he got his B.S in 1942, and then a stint in the U.S. Navy from 1945-1946, and then received his M.S. degree at W.Va. U. in 1951. Dr. John D. Downes (John) was a former resident of East Lansing, Mich., where he taught undergraduate and graduate research in Horticulture/Agronomy at Michigan State University and managed a research farm from 1955-1970. John also taught and lectured at Texas Tech University in Lubbock from 1970-1984. After retiring from Texas Tech and a USAID post in Lesotho, South Africa, John and wife, Nellie Riggs Downes (deceased), and son, James Downes, moved to Athens to be near his sister, Virginia Camisa and Louie Camisa, both deceased. John and Nell, avid gardeners, grew tomatoes and peaches that were highly prized by local farmers and customers at the McMinn County Farmers Market, where they sold produce left over from what they shared with friends! John and Nell were active members of the McMinn Senior Activity Center, but Nell passed in 1999 and John then gave his time to researching his tomato growing and growing grapes and time to the American Legion Post in Athens. Upon returning to the senior center, he developed a close friendship with Jeannette Malone and they became close friends until his passing. John is survived by son, John D. Downes III of Belle Meade, N.J.; daughter, Jean L. Rademacher of Lansing, Mich.; son, Earl R. Downes of West Palm Beach, Fla.; and son, James R. Downes of Athens. John has six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. John’s remains will be cremated and then buried with a family ceremony at a later date at McMinn Memory Gardens. In lieu of flowers, donate to the McMinn Senior Activity Center of Athens or the American Legion Post in Athens. Share a memory of John and/or your personal condolences with his family by visiting his memorial webpage and guestbook at Companion Funeral Home of Athens is honored to assist his family with these arrangements.

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