A friend to allRod Campbell freely admits he landed his best friend, Robert Bob Downs Sr., in some sticky situations. While traveling the two got trapped on a tram in Venezuela, missed a bus in Copenhagen and got left on the island of Grenada by a cruise ship.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Rod Campbell freely admits he landed his best friend, Robert Bob Downs Sr., in some sticky situations. While traveling the two got trapped on a tram in Venezuela, missed a bus in Copenhagen and got left on the island of Grenada by a cruise ship.
I have a knack for being in trouble, Campbell said. But the resourceful pair always worked things out. We had a lot of fun, a lot of fun in our lives. Work hard; play hard. That’s what we kind of did.
Downs, a third generation funeral director who served his county in World War II and the Korean War, passed away unexpectedly Tuesday.
My heart is just breaking for myself and the family, said Linda Taber, who worked with him for more than 34 years at Downs Funeral Home in Superior. He was kind, respectful and truly cared for everybody, she said.
This family has so much love and caring in their hearts, Taber said. People don't realize it. I see it every day.
I think our community is going to miss him, Campbell said. In his personal estimation, he said, Downs was the most outstanding citizen that's come out of this area for years.
The two men met at the YMCA camp in Lake Nebagamon. Downs was 7; Campbell was 8.
Downs was also a close friend of Bud Grant, who he introduced at the Hometown Hall of Famers program at Superior High School on May 1. Grant called Downs a close friend and spoke fondly of his childhood spent playing baseball in sandlot games with Downs. Games often were played at the field near the former Pattison School, where Downs was a student.
Any time it wasn't raining we were playing baseball, Grant said.
In high school, Downs played football with Grant before going to college at the University of Wisconsin-Superior and serving in the U.S. Navy. Campbell served as a combat medic with the U.S. Army in World War II. Both men married a Joyce (one a Gaynor, the other a Nelson) and the two couples shared a lasting friendship.
He knew everybody and everybody loved him, Campbell said. He never had a bad word to say about anybody. And his empathy was keenly felt at Downs Funeral Home.
What I've seen them do for the community and families when they are dealing with a death, Taber said. I'm so proud to say I work with them.
Downs worked with numerous organizations and served on the board for M&I Bank and Superior, Water, Light & Power.
He came from a long line of community-minded people. Bob took that very seriously, said Jim Zastrow, president of BMO Harris Bank.
Even after he retired and his son, Robert Rob Downs Jr., took over the funeral home, Downs would drop in daily to drink his coffee and read the newspaper.
He was something special, Taber said.
Rob said his father was empathetic and enjoyed people. He was very diplomatic and knew everybody and their brother.
He was very good at what he did, Rob said.
Long-term friendships were important to Downs, who maintained close ties with Grant, Campbell and others from his youth. For 63 years, he would invite old classmates out to the family cabin on Bond Lake in Wascott for the fishing opener. Downs enjoyed fishing for all manner of fish.
So long as it was entertaining, he was in for it, Rob said.
For the last 10 years, the family took part in the Wascott Fourth of July Parade as well.
Honest and hard-working, Downs could often be found putzing around the lake or garden, his son said, and when he wasn't putzing he was reading. Along with fishing and hunting, Downs was an avid golfer. Campbell added poker and gin rummy to the list.
Downs wasn't one to toot his own horn or brag, those who knew him said.
He wasn't looking for recognition, Campbell said, but he was one of the best things that ever happened to Superior Just the way he lived his life.
The Superior man was described as honest, kind, loving, ethical and loyal, a friend to all, every day.
And that's really impressive as far as I'm concerned, Campbell said.
Visitation will take place 5-7 p.m. today in the Downs Funeral Home, 1617 N 19th St. His funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday in the United Presbyterian Church with Rev. Joel Huenemann officiating. Committal prayers will be at Greenwood Cemetery followed by military honors by the American Legion Richard I. Bong Post No. 435.