Murphy Funeral Homes


Adrienne Adler Downs

June 27, 1941December 20, 2020
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Dr. Adrienne Adler Downs of McLean, VA, passed peacefully in her home and in the company of her sons the morning of Sunday, December 20, 2021. She was 79. She fought a brief but courageous battle with stage four lung cancer, having received the initial diagnosis in September.

She was born in Memphis, TN, the eldest child of James K. Adler and Margaret W. Adler. She attended Sacred Heart High School, while simultaneously studying music at the Southwestern College (now Rhodes) Preparatory School of Music. At age 16, she became the first high school student allowed to perform with the Southwestern orchestra, playing the entire Grieg A-Minor piano concerto. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis), and her Medical Degree from the University of Tennessee. She moved to Washington, DC, upon graduation from medical school. Her career in medicine included service as a private practitioner, as well as on the staff of the Fairfax County Health Department.

Adrienne married James C. Downs (Jim) on December 7, 1966. They were introduced through a mutual friend. Adrienne and Jim made their home in McLean, VA, with their two sons Mark and Brian. Following Jim’s premature death in 1992, Adrienne remained focused on raising her sons as well as part time volunteer work as a physician serving Hospice patients. Adrienne retired from Hospice service in 1998. Her spirit of love, kindness, and generosity will also live on in the hearts of all the people she touched through her extensive mentoring and volunteer work.

During the George W. Bush administration, Adrienne served as a volunteer staff member within the White House Gift Office. Her duties included the inventorying, appraisal, and cataloging of gifts given to the president or members of the first family.

Adrienne spent her retirement years enjoying the company of family and friends. She was a competitive bridge player and participated in tournaments throughout the area. She was deeply involved in the life of her young granddaughter Anna, with whom she maintained a very close relationship. With her sister Michele, she co-authored a memoir, Poplar Street, which chronicled their experiences growing up in a multi-generational household in mid-century Memphis. Deeply committed to her Catholic faith, she was a member of St. Luke’s parish in McLean, and frequently attended daily mass at Missionhurst Chapel in Arlington.

Adrienne is survived by her sons Mark (Marianne) and Brian Downs; granddaughter Anna Downs; sister Michele Adler of Tampa, FL; brother James Kevitt Adler (Diane) of Scottsdale, AZ; three sisters-in-law, and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her brother, James Christopher Adler of Destin, FL.

A visitation will be held on Friday, January 15 from 2 to 4 pm and 6 to 8pm at Murphy Funeral Homes in Falls Church. A funeral Mass will be held Saturday, January 16 at St. Luke Catholic Church at 1pm. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Memphis Recovery Center, a campus which now includes the home in which Adrienne grew up; the Salvation Army; or the Women’s Home of Arlington, VA, which provides residential services for women who are recovering from substance abuse.

To view the livestream of the service at St. Luke's Catholic Church, please follow the link below.


  • Celebration of Life Visitation

    Friday, January 15, 2021

  • Celebration of Life Visitation

    Friday, January 15, 2021

  • Mass of Christian Burial

    Saturday, January 16, 2021



Adrienne Adler Downs

have a memory or condolence to add?

Ann Collier

January 16, 2021

To Adrienne’sfamily! I was at the service—ZOOM! I want you to know it was the CLASSIEST funeral I have EVER attended! Of course it was for a very classy lady! Even beloved Adrienne would have found no fault!
The priest was wonderful and the music was unbelievable! And a lovely eulogy!
My sincere condolences and gratitude to her family!
Ann Collier

The Knight Family

January 16, 2021

We all were blessed to have had Adrienne in our lives in one capacity or another. For the Knight family it was through Scouting and during an amazing cruise she, Mark and Brian took with us to Alaska in 1994.

It was my good fortune to enjoy Scouting with her Eagle Scouts and to get to know Jim who was our Troop Finance Chairman in the late 1980s. We still laugh about the time Adrienne drove the boys up to WV to a Troop camping trip only to have her car breakdown stranding her for the night. And we all know how much she enjoyed camping out....both times (the other being on the family lawn)! She spent the night roughing it in the hunting shack with Scouts in tents in the surrounding field. We broke the rules a little that night with a well received adult beverage for our surprise guest!

On the cruise we originally had three for Adrienne and the boys, one for Cricket, Kari and Christopher and the third for Ted and Candy where we'd all convene just before dinners. After a night or two Adrienne moved in with Cricket and Kari and Chris moved in with Mark and Brian! Our daughters still talk about that amazing week as Adrienne's roomies!

Adrienne Downs was an incredible, wonderful person on so many levels as was so ably remembered by her sister during the service. She will be missed but we can all take solace that her spirit lives on in her two outstanding sons!

Anne and Tim Hunt

January 12, 2021

Being neighbors since 1992 we saw a lot of change around here, but the genuine feel of community never wavered. Fifteen years ago, or so, a number of us in the neighborhood would meet in each others homes for tea a couple times a month. Since not many of us were able to have "chats" over the back yard fences this became a nice way to get to know each other better.
You will be missed, Adrienne. From Anne and Tim Hunt, with condolences from another long time neighbor, Georgie Aldrich.

Arlene Christian

January 9, 2021

Adrienne joined our Tuesday AM meditation circle at Missionhurst more than a year and half ago and was a regular contributing member weekly whenever possible. She added to our sharing time and I am sorry for her loss to us and to her family and friends.

We do not intrude on one another's lives and only add prayer requests when feel moved to do so. I had no idea that her medical situation was so fragile but we did pray for her and her intentions and I trust that her soul has gone to Eternal Love and will be welcomed in the company of those who have believed and gone before her. May her family and close friends find the grace and support they need to adjust to her loss. Arlene Christian

Annelie Wilde

January 4, 2021

I have fond memories of the gleam in her eye, the fingers flickering, the chortle preceding a gibe, a hoot or a bit of Southern wisdom. Adrienne dressed with panache and class and was never, ever dull. I have fond memories of Christmas brunch at the golf club where I met her sister. I extend my condolences to her especially and of course to Adrienne’s sons. She will be missed.

Peter McCambridge

January 3, 2021

Adrienne was an awesome spirit! I met her many years ago when she came to her first meeting in McLean. I clearly remember her saying " I just want to be entertained!"
What a beautiful, gracious southern gal... You will be missed Ms. Adrienne.....

Ann Collier

January 2, 2021

Adrienne and I became friends at Missionhurst . In addition to all her accomplishments she was also an excellent reader of the scriptures and one of my favorite readers st both Missionhurst and Marymount! She always knew what she was reading and Spoke the gospel!
However, our greatest bond together came in the final months of her life! I joined her in daily attending on line, virtually, the CatholicDaily Mass from the Loretta Chapel in Canada! We were always aware that each other was present in the Mass as we had been literally, formerly at Missionhurst! She once wrote to me:”During today’s Mass, I was so glad you were there ! “. We had our favorite priests and agreed on the same, often jotting off comments to each other! I miss her now and continue the Mass daily with Adrienne in my heart!

Brian Schantz

December 31, 2020

My life was made better for having known Adrienne. She was a quite accomplished woman, and yet very humble. A physician, accomplished musician, wonderful wife, mother, sister, etc., etc. - a long list. Adrienne was a lady with Southern charm and class. She had quite a wit, and the wonderful quality of not taking herself too seriously. I was in a spiritual group with her and she always brought so much experience, strength , hope and wisdom with her. My deepest sympathies are with her family. It is comforting to know she is not suffering and is in paradise with her Creator.

Penny Leber

December 29, 2020

Adrienne Downs was my dear friend and spiritual mentor. She helped me and many others find our true selves through love, laughter, friendship and prayer. She was a beautiful lady, our Adrienne and she will be deeply missed.

My sympathy and prayers go to the Downs family- Mark, Brian, Michelle, Marianna and to Adrienne’s granddaughter Anna. May you all take heart in knowing how very much she was loved by so many.

Penny Leber

Martha stay

December 26, 2020

All my memories of this amazing woman revolve around traveling on a spiritual journey together.
From St. John's in McLean to Missionhurst in Arlington , we shared many hours together sharing religious ideas. For many years we were in a meditative prayer group together.
I will miss her insights into our world.
My deepest sympathy goes out to her sons and their families.
May the peace of Christ be with Adrienne.
Martha Stay