Marie-Bernice Downey

June 27, 1931May 31, 2024
Obituary of Marie-Bernice Downey
Marie-Bernice Grabowski Downey of Martinsville, VA died Friday, the 31st of May 2024 at the age of 92. She was born in Philadelphia, PA on June 27, 1931 to the late Mary Rose Shillingford Grabowski and Zigmunt S. Grabowski. She spent her childhood surrounded by her Irish-English cousins. When she was 10 years old her family moved to Detroit, MI to be near her father’s Polish family. Her life was always full of family, love of God, singing, art, hard work, dedication and perseverance. Marie-Bernice had three sisters: Laura, Marleen and Natalie Anne. She had a beautiful voice and sang in the Detroit Art Institute at 15 years old. In recent years she was a member of The Smith River Singers in Martinsville. She was a Girl Scout in her youth and a Brownie leader as an adult. She graduated from Annunciation High School in Detroit, Michigan and became a postulant nun in the Dominican Order when she was 17 years old. Later she entered St. Joseph’s Mercy College of Nursing in Detroit and then joined the U.S. Army in 1953 as a Second Lieutenant, honorably discharged in 1960 as a First Lieutenant. While stationed in the D.C. area, in the U.S. Army, she met Lt. Frederick C. Downey. They were married on April 21, 1956 at Walter Reed Memorial Chapel. They moved to Charlottesville, Virginia where Marie-Bernice attended UVA Nursing School and Fred attended UVA Darden School of Business. They lived in MD, NY, NJ and finally Martinsville, VA where they raised four children: Kevin C. Downey (wife, Lisa R. Downey), Michael Z. Downey (wife, Rachel K. Downey), Marianne K. Downey Yirmibesoglu (husband, S. Korhan Yirmibesoglu) and Timothy J. Downey. Marie-Bernice was married 55 years to her beloved Fred until his passing on December 30, 2011. Marie-Bernice worked at Martinsville General Hospital as the Director of the Neo-Natal Unit. She then worked at Martinsville Memorial Hospital as Infection Control Nurse, Utilization Review Coordinator and 10 years as Director of Hospice and President of the VA Association of Hospice. She taught many 100s of CNAs at Patrick Henry Community College. She gave her time volunteering for Contact, a crisis help line and also founded La Leche League in Martinsville becoming the President of the Virginia LLL. She was a member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church since 1962 and was one of the first Eucharistic Ministers there 45 years ago, continuing to serve until recent years. She was a member of the Third Order of St. Francis. She was a lifelong student and received her Master of Science in Nursing in 1983 from St. Joseph’s College in Maine. She went on to study for her Ph.D. Marie-Bernice was a much-loved daughter, sister, aunt (twelve nieces and nephews), educator, wife, mother and grandmother. She has eleven grandchildren (Kelly, Erin, Kevin Jr., Sean & Kyle Downey; Jack, Pierce & Connor Downey; Pelin, Ela and Aylin Yirmibesoglu) and six great grandchildren. She was a gifted singer, an animal lover and a wonderful artist. A Mass of the Resurrection will be held Tuesday June 11th, at 12:00pm at St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Martinsville, VA with Father Santos Ramirez officiating. Interment will follow in Roselawn Burial Park. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Martinsville SPCA. The family will receive friends from 5:00 to 7:00 PM at Collins-McKee-Stone Funeral Home in Martinsville, VA on Monday June 10th. You may express condolences on line at

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Past Services

Monday, June 10, 2024


Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Funeral Service

Tuesday, June 11, 2024