BANGOR, CLIFTON and PHOENIX – Col. John Philip Downing Jr., retired, 87, died unexpectedly June 7, 2012, at his home in Clifton. He was born March 1, 1925, in Bangor, the son of John Philip and Muriel Babcock Downing, the oldest of four children.
He was an accomplished pianist, whose love of music followed him throughout his life. Fascinated by the work of the Army Corps of Engineers, John applied to the United States Military Academy at West Point and was accepted as one of only two senatorial appointments from the state of Maine. Graduating on an accelerated program on the day before D-Day in 1945, he joined the Signal Corps, serving in Occupied Germany. After returning to the states, he was assigned to Fort Bliss, where he met Myrtle Luke of Georgia, whom he married in 1950. He served in Korea in command of a unit, constructing communications facilities.
After returning from Korea, he rejoined "Luke," moving to Morgantown, W.Va., where his daughters, Mary Ellen and Elizabeth Anne, were born, teaching military history and communications at West Virginia University. While stationed at a school in Monmouth, N.J., John hit a turning point in his career: realizing the need of the Army for computers for other than weapons systems. He earned a Master of Science degree in industrial engineering from Stanford University, being on the forefront of the use of computers. After the birth of his son, John Philip III, he was transferred to Fort Huachuca, Ariz., where his daughter, Catherine Frances, was born. John’s career in computers and systems logistics led to various posting across the U.S. and in Turkey, where he was attached to NATO, including two stints in the Pentagon. Retiring in 1975 as a widower, he returned to his roots in Maine in 1976. Throwing himself into a variety of volunteer works in the Bangor area, including serving as the first chairman of the Fourth of July Corporation, chairman of Penquis CAP, United Way of Penobscot Valley, president of Opera New England, regional coordinator for the Widowed Person Services and president of the Parish Pastoral Council for St. Mary’s Church. Through his work with Widowed Person Services, he met his beloved Vera, marrying her in 1989, and together they blended their families. One of his greatest joys was being the grill master for gatherings of family and friends. John and Vera began dividing their time between Maine and Arizona in 1993, enjoying the best of both worlds. While in the West, he became involved with various religious and charitable organizations, including the Small Christian Communities, Band of Brothers and Men’s Club at St. Joseph’s Church, living out his faith.
Surviving are his wife, Vera of Clifton and Phoenix; his children, Mary Ellen Minctons of Phoenix, Elizabeth Anne Downing and her husband, Denny K. Cox, of Brewer, John Philip Downing III of Phoenix and Catherine Frances Downing, Esq. of Boston; his stepchildren, Gilbert L. Christopher Jr. and his wife, Deborah, of Phoenix, John E. Christopher and his wife, Cindy, of Bucksport and Candi McKay of Cumberland, Va.; five grandchildren, four great-grandchildren; sister, Nancy B. Robbins and her husband, Don, of Sidney; numerous nieces and nephews; and a very special cousin, Winnie Collins. He was predeceased by his first wife, Myrtle; two brothers, Kenneth A. B. Downing and David R. Downing; a son-in-law, Ronald P. Minctons; and a cousin’s husband, Haywood Collins.
Relatives and friends may visit with the family 6-8 p.m. Monday, June 11, at Brookings-Smith, 133 Center St., Bangor. A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated 11 a.m. Tuesday, June 12, at St. Paul the Apostle Parish, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 768 Ohio St., Bangor. The family invites relatives and friends to share conversation and refreshments in the parish hall after the service. A celebration of his life for his friends in Phoenix will be held at a later date and time to be announced. Condolences to the family may be expressed at