Frances Downing

Obituary of Frances Joan Downing

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Frances Joan Downing
December 25, 1923 – June 2, 2023

We give thanks for the life of Frances Joan Downing aged ninety-nine years who passed away in the loving arms of her family June 2, 2023 in Corner Brook, NL at Western Long Term Care.

Joan was born in Port aux Basques in 1923 to the family of James Henry Downing and Elizabeth Ella Mariah Davis Downing (Elizabeth’s maiden name, Davis, was previously Davey at birth.)

About 1924 when Joan was a baby, James Downing and his family moved to a company home at the Armstrong Whitworth Main Dam project outside of Deer Lake where he was offered a job as cost accountant for a construction project of a dam, canal and powerhouse.

In 1925, Joan returned to Port aux Basques and later attended the Methodist school. Her mother had taught there in 1904 when she was 16.

In order to spend more time with his family, in 1930 James Downing returned to NL and left the Quebec construction firm in Limoilou where he was employed as an accountant. He and his brother-in-law, Louis Davis, decided to start a chicken farm at Long Grade near the NL railway. Their farm supplied eggs for the Glymill Inn. Joan was only 7 years old when she developed appendicitis and had to be taken by railway speeder to Port aux Basques where the ferry was delayed. The old Caribou took her to hospital in North Sydney which saved her life.

In 1936, the Downings moved to St. John’s and Joan went to Prince of Wales College on LeMarchant Road. Her father worked as a cost accountant for the refurbishment of the dockyards at St. John’s harbour and as a purchasing agent for Bowaters woods camps. His office was in a brick building at the top of McBride’s Hill. They rented a large home from the Martin family on 60 Freshwater Road.

Joan attended Corner Brook Public School on West Street in 1937 where her favourite subject was chemistry. At this time her father was cost accountant for the construction of the No. Seven paper machine at Bowaters. She also took piano lessons with Sister Bernadette.

After completing a commercial course in Our Lady of Perpetual Help School with the Presentation Sisters at St. Henry’s Convent, Joan was recommended for a job with the Canadian Department of National Defence in the fall of 1943. Her job entailed the tracking of fair miles (mine sweepers) and cruisers that visited the Port of Corner Brook during WWII. These vessels patrolled the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the east coast of Canada searching for offshore mines, tracking German submarines, and protecting the Merchant Marine convoys that were assembling off the coast of Newfoundland. She worked with the Naval Reporting Officer in Corner Brook, Lieut. Smith on 7 April 1944. Her friends pestered her to tell them when the fair miles would come to port because they wanted to go dancing with the sailors. Her secrecy was so complete she never told neither friends nor family about the marine traffic she recorded until 2021.

Although Newfoundland was a British colony at this time, later on, Joan was again employed by the Canadian Federal Government and remained with them for the remainder of her career. She was an employee of the Unemployment Insurance Commission for 36.5 years.

Joan traveled all over the world: Caribbean, Canada, Europe, Istanbul, Australia and New Zealand. She made annual trips to the Annapolis Valley to bring back apples and vegetables to her family and she travelled across Newfoundland every year to visit family in St. John’s.

She was a faithful member of the First United Church Women from the 1940’s on and took an active part in the sale and distribution of their famous cookbook. Joan wrapped and sent many cookbooks to many different destinations. She supported numerous church fairs and luncheons.

You could see Joan holding the rope tow at Marble Mountain in the 1960s or on the Twelve Mile Dam trail on her cross-country skis. She bowled, played golf, loved gardening, was on the curling team and loved to drive in her car. Her parents enjoyed many picnics at Bowater Park in South Brook with Joan. She kept all of her family warm with her hand knitted sweaters, mitts, hats, socks and baby blankets. Many charities were supported by Joan; Red Cross, Lung Association, Diabetes Association, United Church of Canada and many others. She cared for her parents until their deaths.

Joan was predeceased by her parents, James and Elizabeth Downing, by sisters Mary Eileen Downing Thistle (Jesse), Audrey Elizabeth Downing Green (Edward), by brother Sidney James Downing (Caroline Ryan).

Left to mourn are niece, Elizabeth Joan Thistle Glover (John); nephew, David John Green; niece, Elizabeth Joy Green (Glenn Hamlyn) all of St. John’s, NL, also nieces, Audrey Downing-House of Fort McMurray, AB and other nieces.

Grand nieces and nephews, Sarah Glover of Gatineau, QC, John Glover (Heather) of Russell, ON, Andrew Glover of Calgary, AB, Christina Rees, Robert Rees (Angela) all of St. John’s, NL, Allison Price (Matthew) of Scott Depot, WV, USA, Joanna Piatt (Jon) of St. John’s, NL. Also many great grand nieces and nephews.

First cousins Roland Davis (Rosalie) of Corner Brook, Lillian Davis (Irwin) of Clarenville Dear friends Annie Smith, Edna Hodgett, and her kind neighbours.

Special thanks to the nursing staff at Western Long Term Care for their friendships with Joan and concern for her welfare.

As expressions of sympathy, flowers gratefully accepted, or a donation may be made to a charity of one’s choice.

A Memorial Service will be held on Wednesday, June 7, at 2:00 pm from First United Church, Park Street, there will be a short get together afterward at the Church, followed by inurnment at Mt. Patricia Cemetery.



Funeral Service

2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Wednesday, June 7, 2023
First United Church
19 Park Street
Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
(709) 634-5301
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Frances Downing

In Loving Memory

Frances Downing

1923 - 2023

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