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1927 - 2016 Obituary Condolences
Ruth DOWNS Obituary
DOWNS, Ruth Spence 12/3/27-11/9/16 Ruth Spence Wingate Downs died at her residence in West Point on November 9, 2016, a day which she had earlier described as a "great day" on a recorded message to her son. In fact, almost every day of her 88 years was great and her life's work made great days for others. Ruth was born at home in rural Baker County Georgia on December 3, 1927. She grew up during the Depression years in a family of farmers and teachers who instilled in her general principles of fairness which guided her life---a deep love and respect for all people and a commitment to a quality public education for every child. Ruth attended Huntingdon College then transferred to the University of Georgia where she received a degree in Home Economics in 1949. At UGA, she served as president of the Chi Omega Fraternity and was tapped for Mortar Board in recognition of her campus leadership. At a young age she suffered two devastating losses. At 16 she lost her 21 year old brother "Buddy" in WWII. In college, her fianc? Joe Mundy was killed in a tragic bus accident while on his way to visit her in Athens. The memory of these two special people evoked strong emotion throughout her lifetime. On July 15, 1950, Ruth married Donald Joseph Downs---a UGA cheerleader with a degree in Journalism. For 61 years he shared her love of laughter, music, adventure and mischief---both were avid Georgia Bulldog fans. They started out editing and operating the Hogansville Herald then moved to West Point where Don worked in public relations and Ruth delivered four children in four and one-half years! While raising her children, Ruth taught Sunday school, directed Bible School, and served as PTA President, Girl Scout leader and (her most difficult assignment) Cub Scout den mother. She welcomed all kinds of pets in her home---even a few snakes. Her summer plan involved loading children, hers and others, into her Volkswagen van and hauling them down to the Shawmut pool for swim practice followed by a trip to the library for summer reading. She and Don organized and coached a girls' basketball team at the elementary school level. That team later became the first varsity girls' team at West Point High. Ruth was a long time member and chairperson of the West Point School Board. She was elected State President of the Georgia School Boards Association. She served on Governor Carl Sanders' Georgia Commission to Study the Status of Women in the 1960s and Governor George Busbee's State Task Force for the Improvement of Public Education. She was a member of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society of Professional Women Educators. While her children were in college, Ruth went to LaGrange and West Point public housing to teach consumer education and sewing classes through the Troup Technical School. For several years she was Director of the West Point Child Development Center where she took a special interest in teaching the children and the teachers to swim. Many of these children remained life-long friends of hers. In 2010, a Black History program in West Point honored Ruth and Don for their part in forming a human relations group composed of like-minded black and white couples promoting understanding and paving the way for a more peaceful desegregation of West Point. She loved attending services at Bethlehem Baptist especially on Emancipation Proclamation Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday. Caring for others was her joy. Her mother, her mother's sisters, her husband's uncle all lived in her home through the years prompting Don to nickname their home "Methuselah Manor." She served as guardian and cared for her friend Miss Adelaide Veazey until her death. When the time came for Ruth to accept care "she was not a fan." She remained fiercely independent to the end. Ruth loved to dance. If there was music playing, she was moving to the beat and encouraging all around her to join in the fun. A favorite memory of hers was a magical night when she attended a state dinner at the Truman White House and danced the night away with a young congressman from South Carolina. Two and one half weeks before her death, Ruth attended her granddaughter's wedding where she was showered with love and affection from her entire family. At that grand celebration she danced for the last time. Ruth lived in the moment. She was never too rushed to cut short a good conversation. She was vibrant and demonstrative, and her blue eyes twinkled with enthusiasm. The word "hate" was not in her vocabulary. She much preferred the phrase "not my favorite." She was a sympathetic listener who was fascinated and moved by the life stories of others. She remembered people's names and they remembered her. Her relationships with family, friends and strangers alike were filled with a sense of honor and respect. Until the last day of her life her family sought her counsel. She inspired them to tackle the sometimes impossible tasks of working, parenting and giving back to their communities. She challenged them to lead by example. She was a very proud mother, grandmother and great grandmother. She was preceded in death by her husband Donald Joseph Downs; parents Ruth Spence and Harry Lynnwood Wingate; brothers William Ransom, James Cochran "Buddy", and Harry Lynnwood Wingate, Jr.; a sister Verna Lucille; her mother's sisters Misses Susie, Emily Toy, and Dorothy Virginia Spence; and her special friend Reginald "Book" Gilliam. Four children survive including: Joseph R. Downs, III, MD and his wife Debra Ammons Downs, Margaret Downs Schaufler, MD and her husband Eugene Michael Schaufler, MD, Fulton Superior Court Judge Doris Louise Downs and her husband Stephen Clayton Andrews, JD, and Mr. James Wingate Downs. Eleven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren survive including: William Wingate Downs, JD and his wife Jennifer, M. Div and their children Dexter Barrett and Beatrice Lane; Mrs. Emily Spence Downs Davis, EdS and her husband Michael and daughters Alyse Catherine and Corinne Donnelly; Laura Ellen Downs Beaulieu, PhD and her husband David and daughter Sylvia Jane; Mr. Benjamin Adam Schaufler and his wife Denali Lord; Mr. Christopher Graham Schaufler; Margaret Ann Schaufler, JD; Elizabeth Curry Andrews, MA and her husband Dustin Olsen; Ms. Jessica Foster Andrews; Mr. Patrick Spence Downs and his wife Whitney and daughters Kennedy James and Eloise Grace; Ms. Caitlin Louise Downs; and Ms. Eleanor Opal Downs. A valued friend and devoted caregiver Ms. Marie "Susie" Buckner also survives. The public is invited to a Memorial Service planned for Sunday, November 27, at 3:00 PM at the First Baptist Church of West Point. Family visitation is planned at the church during the hours before and after the service. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Ruth Spence Wingate Downs Scholarship Fund, which provides funding for need-based students selected from Troup County, Georgia. Checks should be made payable to the "University of Georgia Foundation," earmarked for the RSW Downs Scholarship Fund, and sent to the University of Georgia Foundation, 394 South Milledge Avenue, Athens, Ga. 30602, to the Fuller Center for Housing, or to Habitat for Humanity.
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Nov. 23, 2016
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