It is with great sadness that Debi Marti and Devin Downey announce the passing of their
beloved mother Mary Downey in Durango in the early hours before Thanksgiving Day, just a few
days shy of her 89th birthday.
Born Mary Irene Tillson in Elmira, New York, Mary lived a life full of music, travel, family, and of
course, her beloved cats. Already as a teenager she was a very gifted pianist, and she and two
of her siblings formed a trio that performed in many locales. She met her husband-to-be, Ralph
Downey, as she pursued her musical degree at Lebanon Valley College. He would later tell
people they met when he investigated the off-key sounds being played on a trombone in one of
the practice rooms, and there found Mary, who would later become his wife. Ralph became a
public school music teacher, and every summer they would travel around the United States with
their children Donna, Debi, Darla and Devin, camping along the way. Their car trips always
included many sing-alongs as they drove.
Mary, Ralph and family moved to Durango in 1969, where Ralph became a music professor at
Fort Lewis College. Mary was hired as the organist at the First United Methodist Church, a
position she held for a full 44 years, until she was well into her eighties. There was no music
she couldn't play on the piano or organ, no nativity set she wouldn't put out for others to admire
(and trip over), and no trip to Applebee's or Wendy's she would pass up.
Mary loved crafts of all kinds, and though she liked macrame, painting, tie dye, weaving and
several others, quilting was her favorite, and over the years she won many ribbons at the
County Fair for her lovely quilts. She also enjoyed traveling to Europe where her daughter Debi
lived, and loved visiting her grandchildren there.
Mary's big heart and acerbic wit will be greatly missed by her friends and family, including her
surviving brother, Minot Tillson of Florida, as well as her beloved grandchildren, Joëlle, of Berlin,
Germany; Dania, of Geneva, Switzerland; and Tiago, of Albuquerque, not to mention her two
great-granddaughters, Elliana and Lucia.
Her husband Ralph, and daughters Donna Downey and Darla Downey Defeo sadly
predeceased Mary by several decades. Photos of them, along with family members,
surrounded Mary when she died peacefully at home.
A celebration of Mary's life will be held on Friday, November 30, at 11 o'clock at First United
Methodist Church, located at 2917 Aspen Drive, in Durango. Attendees are invited to share a
meal at the church afterwards in remembrance of Mary. In lieu of flowers, the family would
welcome donations to the Bayfield Library or the scholarship funds of the First United Methodist
We rejoice that Mary is now dancing with her Savior, Jesus Christ, surrounded by loved ones
who have gone before her.
"The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you." Deuteronomy 33:27
"Then Jesus said, 'Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will
give you rest.'" Matthew 11:28