Louise Mary Downer

The 93 year fairy tale life story of Louise Mary Downer, known as Lulu to family and friends alike, came to a peaceful end in Aurora, Colorado on 20 March 2013. Born, and abandoned, in New York City in 1919, her first 18 years were spent in orphanages and foster homes in Tarrytown, Hempstead and the Queens. The Italian flare to her cooking came from her days living with 2nd generation immigrant families in Hempstead. She was always a head turner, so she met her handsome Leo at West Point while she was a nanny for an Army officer's children. After they married in 1940, she spent the next 34 years as an Air Corps and later, an Air Force wife. She raised 4 children, often on her own while Leo was away on duty. During WWII she put on her slacks and bandana, ala "Rosie the Riveter", to work at the Bendix Plant in Ft Lee, NJ where she balanced flywheels for aircraft engines destined for the war. Post war, her spirit and ability to overcome adversity were tested when she and her two boys moved to Alaska in 1947. No military housing was available, so she made a home in a one room "gold rush" era, log cabin with a sod roof, outdoor facilities and a well that often froze in the winter. The following years, highlighted by long assignments in California, Florida and Hawaii, also included a few challenging places, like Goose Bay, Labrador. In 1974 when Leo retired, they stayed in Honolulu where she found her own special paradise. Living in the Marco Polo with a lanai view of the pacific, having access to public transportation and becoming a denizen of the Ala Moana Mall, she blossomed, and quickly adopted her nickname--Honolulu Lulu. In 1994 they moved to Las Vegas and then to Denver in 2003 to take up residence in the Heritage Club on Monroe St. Lulu was always quick to point out that she had lived at 93 different addresses during her life, hoping that each one would be the last. Her odyssey over 8 decades resulted in a wealth of stories and anecdotes which she loved to share with family and friends alike. Throughout all her travels she developed and maintained a unique sense of style that showcased her natural, movie star beauty. She really knew how to create a buzz when she walked into a room and always found a way to keep herself looking fabulous with jackets, jeans, accessories and jewelry. Leave it to Lulu to always find the right look for any occasion. Leo, her husband of 65 years, passed away in 2005, so she is survived by two sons, and two daughters. Lee Downer, a retired Air Force Major General in Florida; Tom Downer, a retired auto industry executive in Las Vegas; Bobbie Faas, a community action volunteer in Denver, and Debbie Kirkland, an administrator with Portland State University in Oregon. She also leaves a legacy of 7 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren and two kitties. All will miss Lulu terribly.

Published in Denver Post on Apr. 14, 2013