Evelyn Mae Downer
September 14, 1925 – August 7, 2020
Evelyn Mae Downer, precious Mom, Grandma, “Gigi”, sister, aunt and friend was called to her forever home in Heaven on Friday afternoon, August 7, 2020, at the age of 94.
Evelyn was born on September 14, 1925, to Deward and Naomi Parker at home in Akron, Ohio. She was the second of five children and the firstborn of twins. She had the privilege of being raised in a Christian home and came to know Jesus as her personal Savior at the age of 12 in a tent revival meeting.
Her family was endowed with a variety of musical talent, and the love of gospel music was instilled in Evelyn at a young age. She and twin sister Marilyn became quite the proficient pair on the piano, playing for church services and gospel singers – Marilyn on the upper keys and Evelyn on the lower. They were so well synchronized that it was a challenging task to later play apart from one another! Evelyn developed a unique style that highlighted the tenor and bass leads so prevalent in the “convention style” gospel music of the day. It was a delight to watch them come together again at reunions as the years went by. Evelyn also enjoyed singing with the family and had a striking natural alto voice.
When the family migrated south to the state of Alabama in Evelyn’s teen years, one of their side ventures was a popular malt shop in Gadsden – The Spotless Spot. While working there Evelyn eventually caught the eye of a handsome redhead named George. She had previously seen him at church, and he came in frequently for the decadent malts and milkshakes she served up. Evelyn was actually engaged at the time, but that was no obstacle for George! He offered to drive her home after a church meeting, took a fast curve, threw his arm around her, and the rest was history. She married George Downer on February 8, 1948, at the age of 22 and became the love of his life.
Love is grand, and George and Evelyn also played a role in helping Evelyn’s youngest sister Mary Lou elope with her sweetheart Buddy. The marriage took place in a Justice of the Peace courtyard, complete with clucking chickens. It lasted a lifetime.
George had a love for stock car racing, and every February he and Evelyn would head down to Daytona Beach, Florida, for the Daytona 500. They would scrape together just enough money to make the trip, and then survive on bread and apple butter all week. George eventually pursued a Civil Service position at Patrick AFB near Cocoa Beach, and they made the move to Florida. Evelyn worked briefly in Civil Service as a secretary before they decided to start their family. They purchased a waterfront lot on the bank of the Indian River for $3,000 and built their own two-bedroom home for another $10,000 in 1959.
The couple adopted their first son Darrel in 1961, and then his brother Roger in 1962. Evelyn was later surprised with a pregnancy at the age of 40, and daughter Kim was born in 1966. Evelyn was a happy wife, mother and homemaker. She was quite the southern cook and made sure her family had home-cooked meals every day. She was frugal and wise, and the needs of her family always came first. Strong in her faith, she taught her kids to love the Lord too. She was a faithful figure at the kitchen table every morning reading her Bible and asking for strength for the day. Life did have its moments. Familiar phrases such as “you all are making me a nervous wreck” and “I could just wring your neck” come to mind.
Evelyn was most in her element on the piano, and the children were raised “under the bench.” She is probably most remembered and loved by her years of service as a church pianist for a variety of different churches. George bought a used Gulbransen baby grand piano for her to enjoy at the house, and her kids grew up hearing the hymns and gospel music she practiced. (Darrel literally cut his baby teeth on one of the piano legs.) She played at many an all-night gospel sing and accompanied many local groups from place to place. She was even privileged to be included on an album or two. One of her highlights was accompanying her church chorale at the national Freewill Music and Bible Competition in Louisville, Kentucky in 1981, where they took first place. She finally retired from church service in the mid 1990s, but still enjoyed playing for many years afterward.
As the kids left home and married, she became Grandma to four grandsons and two granddaughters. She eventually became “Gigi” to three great-grandsons and two great-granddaughters. George and Evelyn relocated to Pensacola, Florida, in 2000 to be near daughter Kim and her family, and Evelyn remained with Kim for 14 years after George was called home.
Evelyn’s golden years were a time of great faith and prayer. She was a prayer warrior for the salvation of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and for the needs of her family and countless others. She was a fiercely loyal and abiding friend. Those privileged to be called a friend of Evelyn Downer were blessed indeed. She once had a dear friend who lived in a nursing home whom she would phone every morning because she had promised her there would never be one day that she didn’t hear from somebody.
Evelyn spent her last three years at Solaris Healthcare in Pensacola. She was a sweetheart and a blessing to residents and staff alike. She so enjoyed having her family visit, hearing the details of family life, and looking at photos. She was engaged in all of your lives through prayer.
Evelyn is survived by sister Mary Lou Copeland and brother Larry Parker (Carolyn) of Gadsden, Alabama. She is reunited in Heaven with parents Deward and Naomi Parker, brother Harry Parker (Helen), sister Marilyn Shew (S.J.), and brother-in-law Buddy Copeland. She is survived by her children to include son Darrel Downer (Angie) of Bennettsville, South Carolina; daughter Kim Davis (Richard) of Pensacola, Florida; granddaughters Jennifer Davis Swain (Justin) and Samantha Downer Marshall (Bradley); grandsons Gillion Downer (Shae), Cory Davis, Seth Davis (Rachel) and Ben Downer; great-grandsons Dalton, Maverick, Bransen and Elias; and great-granddaughters Keleigh, Audrey and Evelyn Rose. She is reunited in Heaven with husband George and son Roger.
Evelyn truly honored and revered her mom and dad and received God’s reward of a long and happy life. She made at least annual trips back home for family reunions for many years. These vacations were such a highlight for her kids, who made many happy cousin memories down by the creek. The reunions always ended with hysterical laughter, storytelling and a grand gospel sing-along. Since she lived the farthest away, it was always a special time. As the years went by and the Lord called home whom He desired, the funerals and memorial services became the reunions. They would always end by “singing them home,” and the song of choice was always “Glad Reunion Day.”
We never failed to have all four parts represented, each gathering being a little smaller but still complete. It’s probably down to just a trio of parts now, but heartfelt just the same:
There will be a happy meeting in Heaven, I know, When we see the many loved ones we’ve known here below Gather on that blessed hilltop with hearts all aglow; That will be a glad reunion day.
Glad day (that will be a happy day, yes), a wonderful day! Glad day (that will be a happy day, yes), a glorious day! There with all the holy angels and loved ones to stay, That will be a glad reunion day. (Iris DeMent)
Welcome home, Mom. Until then! ~Kim
* The family wishes to express their sincere gratitude to the Solaris Healthcare team for three years of outstanding love and care of Evelyn, with special thanks to Jodi, Timika, Liz, Keona, Sandra, Wendy, Pam, Heather, A.J., Joy, Judy, Mary, Melissa, Cher, and countless other unseen angels.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Evelyn Mae Downer
September 2, 2020
Evelyn is on the left!
August 15, 2020
I remember one time Evelyn invited Mom, Dad, me and Memu over to their house for dinner. While we were eating she spoke up, “I dropped my chewing gum in the mashed potatoes and I never could find it.” Then she just chuckled quietly.
August 15, 2020
Dear Kim and family,
My deepest sympathy on the passing of Miss Evelyn. She was a darling women. Kim, such a lovely testimony written about your dear mother. I love the hymn Glad reunion day. When I hear it I will think of her. Love and prayers to all the family. 💐