PORT ANGELES — Friends and associates of former Mayor Patrick Downie are mourning the death of the happy warrior who battled prostate cancer while ushering his city through a withering fluoridation debate.
Downie, 76, a two-term City Council member, died Thursday.
A funeral service open to the public is 11 a.m. Friday at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 591 Monroe Road, Port Angeles, Jayne, his wife of 54 years, said Saturday.
Current Mayor Sissi Bruch announced Downie’s passing at 5 p.m. Thursday at a joint meeting between the City Council and Clallam County commissioners.
City officials learned of his death about 15 minutes before the meeting in the council chambers.
“I know that he was very much about collaboration and about working together, and I know he would have thought this was way cool,” Bruch said, coining Downie’s signature phrase as she referred to the meeting.
City Manager Dan McKeen recalled one of Downie’s favorite sayings after the meeting Thursday.
“He always wanted us to be the best we could be,” McKeen said.
“We had some difficult topics when Pat was mayor, and he would always find a way to make you feel better about those difficult topics, that at the end of the day, you have to get through those difficult times, because no matter what, we have a great place, we have a great community, and we can get through them together.”
Downie, who served two terms each on the city planning commission and City Council, had been hospitalized before returning home to Port Angeles a few weeks ago.
City Council member Jim Moran visited Downie about a week before he died.
“He would be in kind of a little bit of a fog, but when somebody would talk about city business, it was like someone turned a light switch on,” Moran recalled Friday.
Downie was program coordinator for the Clallam County Volunteer Chore services program of Catholic Community Services for more than 12 years before being elected to the City Council in November 2009.
Downie retired from the job in April 2010 at age 68 to spend more time time with his wife and devote his energies to City Council duties.
Those duties included serving as mayor when a community debate over fluoridating the city water supply led to ethics complaints against all seven council members and an effort by fluoridation opponents to establish second-class status for the city, which would have resulted in a loss of home-rule powers and which Downie vigorously opposed.
Downie voted with the 4-3 majority to continue fluoridation in January 2016, then voted in the 4-3 majority against the practice in August 2016 to await the results of an advisory vote in November 2017.
Voters put their stamp of approval on the council’s action in the advisory vote and voted down the second-class city proposal.
“There was nothing that tore Patrick up emotionally more than that issue,” Moran said of those days.
“If you chatted with him and looked at his face when he described what he was gong through, you would understand the deep emotions Patrick felt around this and what it was doing to his city.
“To those who say he compromised his principles, all I have to say is that to understand the man, you have to look beyond that and look at what he did.
“He held himself out there in order to stop the bitterness that was developing in the city.
“To me, that transcends quote, unquote, compromising his principles.
“To me, what he did took a tremendous amount of courage.
“While all that was going on, he was fighting cancer.”
Downie, born in Los Angeles, Calif., on March 3, 1942, grew up in Burbank.
He earned a sociology degree from California State University, Northridge, before working in the computer division at Lockheed Martin Corp. in Burbank, Calif., Jayne Downie said Friday.
Patrick Downie’s parents lived in Sequim when the Downies and their two daughters, Lynn and Erin, moved to Port Angeles, where the Downies owned the Royal Victorian Motel on First Street.
They later opened the Baskin-Robbins ice cream franchise before Patrick became a commercial real estate agent at Carroll Realty and Jayne was the supervisor for the North Olympic Library System’s Outreach to the Homebound program.
While working in the private sector, community involvement was Downie’s lifeblood.
In April 1997, area Realtors gave Downie a special community service award.
It listed myriad activities. They included chairing Paint the Town and integral involvement with the North Olympic Peninsula Visitor and Convention Bureau, the Port Angeles Light Opera Association and a task force on the city urban growth plan.
He also was a bishop in the 1980s at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“He liked helping people,” Jayne Downie said.
“He felt like he was making a difference to people that really needed it.”
She said her husband had an insatiable urge to talk to people, a desire never more apparent than when he arranged entertainment for American Cruise Lines ships that dock at City Pier every summer.
He boarded vessels, talking to passengers about where they were from and such.
“He was always talking to people,” Jayne said.
That urge extended to unlikely venues — meetings.
“This is what we say in my family: We never met anybody who liked to go to meetings more than Patrick,” she said.
“The rest of us, you’re looking at your clock or your watch and you’re wondering how much longer this meeting is going to be.
“He just loved the interaction with people. “
After winning election handily in 2009 against Harry Bell, 54 percent to 46 percent, and running unopposed in 2013, Downie did not seek re-election in November.
With Downie’s cancer at Stage 4, he still attended City Council meetings, driven to City Hall by Jayne.
His final meeting was Dec. 19.
As always in recent months, Moran drove Downie home.
“He looked forward to those meetings, and the last one I took him home from, he said, ‘I wish I could keep going, I don’t want to stop,’” Moran said.
Downie said as much at the meeting, where council members Dan Gase, Brad Collins and Lee Whetham also said their goodbyes.
“I’ve never regretted a moment,” Downie told those in the council chambers, leaning on a strong, straight cane.
“I never tried to be a politician.
“I’m just me.
“Working with all of you in this audience day after day, week after week, for eight years or more, has been life sustaining.
“I wish you all well.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].