North Lawrence- Widow of the late James R. Downs, companion of the late Edward Bates, and lifelong resident of Nicholville, New York, passed away after a brief illness in Canton-Potsdam Hospital, Monday July 11, 2016, with loving members of her family at her side. Arrangements are entrusted to Hammill Funeral Home in Winthrop.
"Janie" was born May 24, 1929 to Mary Belle Savage, a homesteader & John S. Donovan, a blacksmith, in Nicholville New York. Their residence was a blacksmith shop beneath the Nicholville Bridge.
She attended Grade School during the depression in Nicholville and North Lawrence, and was a member of the graduating class of 1947 from North Lawrence High School. She attended Albany College of Pharmacy for one year and attended Clothing & Textiles Canton ATI graduating in 1950. During her education at ATI, Janie interned at Macy's in NYC. After graduation she taught at Singer Sewing Machine in Ogdensburg and worked at the Anne Shop in Canton until 1950.
She was married to Jim Downs, of Peru New York at Holy Cross Church in Hopkinton on July 21, 1950. She and her husband operated a dairy farm; Stoney Knoll Farms, previously the Jack Donovan Farm, in Nicholville, NY for 40 years. During that time they raised two children, Richard and Barbara, and were active in community affairs.
She returned to college in 1968, attending Potsdam and Plattsburgh SUNY College of St. Rose, Empire and Syracuse University and graduated from Plattsburgh in December 1973, receiving a BS in Home Economics. Later she received teaching certifications in both Elementary Education and Special Education.
She taught at St. Patrick's School in Brasher Falls from 1967 – 1972 and North Franklin Education Center from 1974 – 1984, and the Adirondack Education Center in Saranac Lake from 1984 – 1996, retiring in 1996. Afterwards she continued to substitute teach at Canton High School and St. Lawrence Central.
She was a member of the Parish Council at Holy Cross Church in Hopkinton, NY., board member of the Cooperative Extension in St Lawrence County, member of the association of New York State retired teachers, and as a life long resident of Nicholville and the North Country, Mary Jane often submitted articles about her experiences, memories, and observations of the area to the St Regis Falls Historian Association's Newsletter.
She constantly entertained her family with those stories and the detailed recollections of her lifetime. Proud of her heritage cautioned "Don't fly too high that you can't come home to roost, or too high that you have to lay low."
A matriarch of the family she championed equality, honesty, patience, and compassion. She was the cornerstone of the family, eager to offer support.
She is survived by her children: son Richard J. Downs companion to Lynda Bage of Nicholville, NY and daughter Barbara A. Brabon fiancé of Bill Harvest of Allentown, PA., five grandchildren: grandson Brett Downs husband of Sara Chambers, granddaughters Leah Van Note wife of Kyle Van Note, granddaughter Erica Brabon wife of Brett Hawes, granddaughters Brittany Brabon and Danielle Brabon and four great grandchildren.
Visitation will be Friday from 2-4 and 6-8 at the Hammill Funeral Home in Winthrop. Mary Jane's Mass of Christian Burial will be Saturday at 10:00am at St. Lawrence Church in North Lawrence with Rev. Garry Giroux. Burial will follow in the parish cemetery.
For those wishing to express an act of kindness, memorial contributions may be made in Janie's honor to the following: Hospice and Palliative Care of St. Lawrence Valley, Nicholville Fire Department, or Tri Town Rescue Squad.
Memories and condolences may be shared at www.hammillfh.com