|Birth: ||Oct. 30, 1903|
|Death: ||Oct. 4, 2010|
Father: Anselm Maria WICHERS
Mother: Mary DUNNE
Married Oscar Howard DOWNING
on May 30, 1926 in Tampa, Hillsborough County, Florida
SAN ANTONIO In 1882, two of Jessie Downing's ancestors founded San Antonio, Florida, a small Pasco County town 45 minutes east of New Port Richey. Capt. Hugh Dunne and his cousin, Judge Edmund Dunne, hoped to establish a Catholic colony there.
By 1883, San Antonio had several stores, a school and a barn-like church.
Mrs. Downing, Hugh Dunne's granddaughter, died Monday at a Clearwater nursing home. She was 106.
"Her mission in life was to see that we were all good Catholics," said Tricia Donovan, Mrs. Downing's granddaughter.
Relatives describe Mrs. Downing as a tiny woman who liked to wear red, who grew orchids and told stories in a chirpy lilt.
She talked about picking up neighbors for church in a horse and buggy, marking pigs' ears to identify them and chasing after cows that had wandered away.
"We really rue the fact that we didn't bring a tape recorder," said Richard Christmas, a commissioner in the town of St. Leo and Mrs. Downing's cousin.
Jessie Wichers was born in 1903 in San Antonio, Florida, the same year the Wright brothers launched the first successful airplane. She graduated from the Academy of the Holy Names in Tampa, then worked for Peninsular Telephone Co.
In 1926, she met and married Oscar Downing, who built batteries. The couple moved to Clearwater and started jobs that would last a career, he with the city and she as a secretary for Pinellas County Title Co. They brought up two daughters and a son, and numbered among the first members of St. Cecelia Catholic Church.
She sent neatly typed letters to her children and grandchildren, reminding them to attend church regularly. "She would hound you to death about that," said son Tom Downing, 72.
She accepted the deaths of family members as a part of life her last sibling died in 1978, her husband in 1987. Mrs. Downing remained at her Clearwater home, cultivating orchids and other plants in a pair of greenhouses.
A daughter, Frances Donovan, died in 2005 at age 78. Mrs. Downing wore a favorite red hat to the funeral. "I think she thought, 'I'm 101, and I can wear whatever I want,' " Tricia Donovan said.
Mrs. Downing remained alert almost to the end, a rosary dangling from her hands.
"The beads would get broken or caught in the arm of her wheelchair," her son said. "I used to bring three of them, to make sure she had enough."
On Oct. 3, Tricia Donovan visited her grandmother, who lay unresponsive at Westchester Gardens, a nursing home.
Donovan leaned over and began whispering a Catholic prayer: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
"Her mouth started moving a mile a minute," she said.
Mrs. Downing died the next day.
Oscar Howard Downing (1900 - 1987)
Sylvan Abbey Memorial Park
Created by: Arthur Allen "Art" Moore...
Record added: Oct 09, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 59842250
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