Martin Downing

Martin J. Downing

1961 - 2021

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Obituary of Martin J. Downing

Our beloved brother and friend, Martin John Leonard Downing, passed away peacefully at his home in Coralville from stomach cancer on Saturday, October 23, 2021. His sisters and good friend and pastor were at his side, and his brothers and good friends had spent special time with him shortly before his passing. Martin was born on April 10, 1961, in Ferntree Gully, Victoria, Australia. He was the fourth of six children born to Donald and Flora Downing who were raised in Western Australia. On June 14, 1966, the family emigrated to the United States, when their father joined the faculty at Boston University. They settled in Wellesley, Massachusetts. In Wellesley, Martin lived in three different homes and attended Honeywell and Perrin Elementary Schools, and Wellesley Junior and Senior High Schools. His sister Mary fondly remembers cross country skiing with Martin in the Natick Town Forest on skis their parents gave them one Christmas. Martin’s siblings considered him the family genius, and he drove some of them crazy by outsmarting them at every board game they played. He was the only person in the family ever to solve a Rubik’s cube. He mostly tolerated his siblings when they could not keep up with his sharp mind, which remained strong to the end. Being a family of immigrants, with no extended family in a country that was initially strange and complex to them, the Downing Family was always extremely close. In 1971, their parents had the crazy idea to load the six children into a Volkswagen micro bus and spent six weeks traveling and camping around Europe. This was an incredibly rich experience for the kids. Martin was 10 years old and exposed to many of the world’s greatest architectural and artistic wonders, which no doubt fueled his exceptional creativity. Though the siblings also recall many moments of poking each other in the back seats and generally driving their parents mad. At the end of the European adventure, the family settled for a school year in the ancient village of Fordwich, Kent, England. The school-age children attended Church of England Schools where Martin first learned to tie a tie, part of the required uniform. Not knowing the rules, he and his little sister were once punished by the headmaster for stopping to buy sweets on the way to school (which they may or may not have ever done again). Weekends were spent traipsing around the ancient village and riding the double decker bus into Canterbury where Martin liked to visit the joke shop. On one such trip, he purchased a fake poo, which he strategically used to excite his mother. On one memorable occasion, Martin and his little sister Nancy took their baby brother Willy, less than 2 years old, on a punt across the very deep water-filled quarry. Looking back, they were grateful their little brother survived. It is unclear if their parents were ever aware of this adventure. In 1978, Martin and his younger siblings moved to Iowa City when their father began a job at the University of Iowa. After high school, Martin earned a bachelor of arts degree at the University of Iowa, where he specialized in ceramic arts. Martin’s ceramic style was unique, combining both wheel-thrown and hand-molded elements to create beautiful vases, pitchers, and pots, many of which grace his siblings’ homes today. His brother Matthew particularly remembers Martin’s great love of animals, which were often featured in his ceramic art. He didn’t eat pork out of respect for pigs, and any pet in the room would gravitate to him. Martin worked for Facilities Management for the University of Iowa for many years. He was also an antique collector, specializing in American pottery and glassware, ceramic figurines, early tools, stamps, and metal toy vehicles. In recent years, he became an antique dealer, selling his pieces in several venues. His knowledge of antiques was encyclopedic. His siblings enjoyed helping him with this work when they could and will always treasure those times and what they learned from him. He generously gave some of his treasures to siblings who enjoyed them, including Native American pottery to his sister, Caroline, whose art students appreciated learning their origin. Martin is survived by his siblings, Caroline Downing (Joe Hildreth) of Potsdam, NY, Matthew Downing of Iowa City, Mary Giveen (Dr. Sam) of Grantham, NH, Nancy Downing (Richard Bogue) of College Station, TX, and William Downing (Kumi Morris) of Iowa City. He is missed by his good friend and pastor, Larry Munroe of Washington and Iowa City, and other close friends. He is remembered by his nieces and nephews scattered throughout the country, Adriana and Frederick Hemans and Kate Hildreth, Jessica Weinger and Sarah Sherman, Esack and Zoe Grueskin and Chloe Reagan, and Talbot and Ian Morris-Downing. His great nieces and nephew, Natalia and Noah Weinger and Lily Hemans, have heard stories about their brilliant uncle. He is also survived by his ex-wife, Kathia Downing. He is dearly missed by his beloved cats, Sweetpea, Calico, and Po’Boy, who will remain with family. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to a humane society, animal shelter, of cancer support organization.