Memorable Manitobans: James William “Jim” Downey (1925-1996)
Educator, administrator, coach.
Born at Portadown, Ireland on 12 July 1925, son of John Downey (c1898-1963) and Kathleen Hunniford (1902-1996), after immigrating to Canada with his parents in 1926, he served as Flight Officer (1942-1945) with the Royal Canadian Air Force. Following his military discharge, he continued with his education, earning a BA (1950) from United College and both a Diploma of Education (1951) and BEd (1957) from the University of Manitoba. He was married twice, first to Laura Evelyn Kristjanson on 22 December 1951 at First Federated Church in Winnipeg. The couple had four children, and filed for divorce in 1984. He later remarried to “Toby” Downey.
He began his teaching career in Fall 1951 at Glenwood School, after which he worked in the Winnipeg School Division (1952-1959), where he taught English at David Livingstone School, Isaac Newton School, Sisler High School, and Tec Voc, and later served as a school guidance head. He proceeded to teach in Fort Garry at Viscount Alexander School (1959-1960), and was a teacher (1960-1962) and Vice-Principal (1962-1965) of Vincent Massey Collegiate, after which he was granted a year off, which he spent teaching at the Kangumo Teachers’ College in Kenya (1965-1966). He returned to Winnipeg and became Principal (1966-1967) of Vincent Massey Collegiate and was appointed Assistant Superintendent (1967-1969) of the Fort Garry School Division prior to succeeding H. L. Softley as Superintendent of the Norwood School Division (1969-1980). Though formally retired, his love of teaching English brought him back to the profession in the 1980s. He was actively involved in sports and coached several championship basketball teams.
He died at Winnipeg on 23 November 1996.
“United College grads say vows by candle light,” Winnipeg Free Press, 24 December 1951, page 8.
Obituary [John Downey], Winnipeg Free Press, 1 October 1963, page 24.
“Bend’s school job filled,” Winnipeg Free Press, 30 May 1969, page 3.
Winnipeg Family Division, file FD84-01-30298, Manitoba Court Registry System.
Obituary [Kathleen Downey], Winnipeg Free Press, 28 August 1996, page C6.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 26 November 1996, page C6.
We thank Nathan Kramer for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.
Page revised: 17 December 2021