Thomas James Downs, 81, had enthusiasm for all things nautical

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Thomas James Downs
Thomas James Downs

Thomas James Downs, 81, of Yorktown, Va., passed away peacefully on Friday, Dec. 9, 2016, after a prolonged illness.

Tom was born in Norwalk, Conn., and was the only child of Edith and James Downs. His wife of 58 years, Lillian; two children, Andrea Seeley and Gunnar Downs; and grandson, Kevin Seeley, survive him. His son, Kevin Downs, preceded him in death.

Tom was a graduate of Fairfield College Preparatory School, attended the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he earned his degree in civil engineering in 1959. He was a methodical problem solver and could find a practical solution for almost anything that needed fixing. He retired from Southern New England Bell Telephone and moved to Virginia 18 years ago. Tom was commissioned lieutenant junior grade in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve during the Vietnam War and retired as commander after 28 years of service. His Coast Guard Academy classmates of 1957 have remained lifelong friends. A true patriot all of his life, he never let the sun set or rain fall on the American flag that flew in his front yard no matter where he lived.

Tom grew up by the sea and never strayed far from it. He loved swimming and sailing his three sailboats and trawler (all named Windsong) on Long Island Sound and the Chesapeake Bay. His dear friends from Seaford Yacht Club can attest to his enthusiasm for all things nautical.

Tom had a great love affair with life itself. He had a quick wit, infectious smile and a laugh could be heard above the din at any gathering. He was a magnet for animals and small children – gentle, patient and always willing to lend an ear.

Tom will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him. His funeral Mass will be celebrated at 1 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15, at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church with interment at a later date in Arlington National Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, or the Dementia Society of America.