"Ain't none of us getting out of this alive"
William Rex Downing passed away on April 23, 2015 in Houston, Texas. He had been ill for about a month but his death was still sudden. He was born July 27, 1948 in Mercedes, Texas. He grew up on his family's citrus farm where he became good friends with the undocumented workers who worked on the farm. He learned to speak Spanish before he started kindergarten and had memories of trading "store bread' for fresh tortillas and how happy each party was to get the better end of the deal. He developed a life-long respect for the work ethic, the integrity, and the values of the Hispanic heritage.
Rex's athletic career peaked in junior high when he scored his only touchdown. He always believed in quitting while you're ahead so he never played football after that. In high school, he was state 3A UIL champion in Prose Reading. He starred in numerous high school theater productions and graduated with honors in 1966. His success in in both theater and public speaking is embodied in his life philosophy of, "Laugh at yourself. If you don't, someone else will."
Rex graduated from Austin College in Sherman, Texas where majored in Speech and Drama. After college, he taught school in Mercedes and in Santa Maria before beginning his career in state government at the Department of Human Services. He considered his highest calling a commitment to helping people in poverty. He was recognized for his skills and passion with continuous promotions to higher positions and ultimately came to the headquarters in Austin. He directed the Quality Control Division for many years and placed great emphasis on how his staff and their findings could help the front line case worker and the program as a whole. He served on the Board of the American Public Welfare Association and as President of the national Quality Control Directos Association. He was proud to have been named an instructor at the Texas Governor's Center for Management Development where he encouraged his class to "Walk with pride, my friend, walk with pride!". He concluded his state service working in the state Health Department.
Upon retirement in 2000 he moved to Newton, Texas where he worked for a time as a disc jockey at KTXJ radio station. Someone asked him once what he most missed about working. He thought for a second and replied, "calling in sick". That was Rex.
Rex is survived by the love of his life, his daughter Andrea Downing-Smear, of Eugene, Oregon; his two brothers James of Harlingen, Texas and John of Mercedes, Texas; and his longtime companion, Kathleen McCorquodale, of Newton, Texas. He will be greatly missed by his many friends, not least of whom he met through Alcoholics Anonymous, an organization which he credited with saving his life. He was preceded in death by his parents, Bill and Mary Downing, his brother, Scott, and his nephew William Downing. A memorial service was held in Newton, Texas on April 27, 2015 at Servant United Methodist Church. Interment of the ashes will be at the Mercedes Cemetary at a later date.
Published in Austin American-Statesman from May 17 to May 18, 2015.