David Lawrence Downing

Born on November 17, 1952 in Bryan, Texas
Departed April 28, 2023 in Brevard County, Florida

David Lawrence Downing, was born November 17, 1952, in Bryan, Texas. Son, sibling, husband, father, grandfather, friend, commander, having lived fully and intently, passed April 28, 2023, in Brevard County, on Florida’s Space Coast. It marked the end of the adventure of life he embraced every day.

Military honors ceremony will be in Pensacola, Florida, the Emerald Coast, on June 8, 2023, at 1:30 pm (1330) at Barrancas National Cemetery at Pensacola Naval Air Station; preceded by Mass at 11:00 am (1100) at St. Thomas More Catholic Church, 3295 Barrancas Avenue; followed by a celebration of life at Peg Leg Pete’s Restaurant, 1010 Ft. Pickens Road, Pensacola Beach, starting at 4:00 pm (1600).

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Dave’s favored charity, Tunnel to Towers Foundation, supporting the families of American Heroes, Fallen First Responders and Wounded Veterans. www.t2t.org

Dave was most proud of his Naval career. After attending Nolan Catholic High School in Ft. Worth, TX, he graduated from University of North Texas in Denton, TX, in 1976. He immediately reported to the Aviation Officers Candidate School in Pensacola, FL receiving his commission on May 20, 1977. Changing his designator in 1978, he reported to the USS Mount Vernon (LSD 36) where he served as Second Division Officer. He transferred to the USS Thomaston (LSD 28) in June 1979 and then earned his Surface Warfare qualification. Accepted into the TAR program, he served as Commanding Officer, Naval Reserve Center, Gulfport, MS, and as Officer-in-Charge Naval Reserve Facility, Hattiesburg, MS. In 1984, serving as Operations Officer Special Boat Unit Eleven, Vallejo, CA, he received Combatant Craft OIC qualifications. Reporting in December 1986 to staff commander, Naval Surface Reserve Force, New Orleans, LA, he served as Area Coordinator, Western Division. In December 1989 he reported as Executive Officer at Special Boat Unit Thirteen, San Diego, CA, eventually serving as Acting Commander, from the commencement of Desert Storm in August 1990 until his transfer in July 1991, when he reported to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Manpower and Reserve Affairs as Special Assistant, Reserve Affairs. Splitting his tour in Washington, DC, Commander Downing then reported to the Washington Navy Yard as Reserve Program Technical Manager at Military Sealift Command. His final duty station was as Executive Officer, Naval Reserve Center, Dallas, TX, from 1995-1998.

The Governor of Texas designated Dave as an Admiral in the Texas Navy in December, 1997. After retiring from the US Navy, Dave pursued a second career at the University of North Texas, Denton, TX, working with Lifelong Learning and Institutional Research and Effectiveness from 1998-2017.

Dave knew every class of ship in the Navy, every model airplane seen in the skies, and absorbed military history … all history across the BC-AD calendars. Really, I said, “You should be a history professor.” Dave received the masters (2003) and doctoral (2009) degrees from University of North Texas, in a different field of interest, computer education and cognitive systems. Although he never taught in a classroom, he mentored many and everyone he met learned something from him. Every day was interesting, intriguing and engaging. Hobbies, interests and adventures filled his life, from bartending school, to herb, flower and moss gardening, running the distance equal to twice around the globe (in his younger Navy years), hiking to waterfalls in the Blue Ridge mountains, walking many shorelines, cooking and grilling (we called it cheffin’ it up), cars, especially his recently acquired Jeep, an older, rugged Wrangler, he had crazy fun driving on the back forest roads of North Georgia. And the boating adventures! Captain aboard MV Solar Lobster, he cruised from Clear Lake, TX, across the Gulf of Mexico, around the tip of Florida, up to the St. Johns River, inland from Florida’s First Coast, where Hurricane Irma persuaded us to reconsider our goal of “doing the Great Loop.” In October 2017, we returned to the Space Coast, back into the fold of our military family at Manatee Cove Marina at Patrick Space Force Base, (formerly Naval Air Station Banana River and Patrick Air Force Base) creating deep friendships at the dock and beneath the thatch of the Tiki Bar.

Dave was an enthusiastic member of the Space Coast Parrot Head Club, participating in beach clean-ups, planting sea oats to reinforce the dunes of Cocoa Beach, and constructing cages for oyster spat to cleanse the Indian River Lagoon. The on-the-water adventures continued. We explored most of Florida’s immense coastline. Favorite extended stops were St. Petersburg, Ft. Myers and Sanibel Island (Sun Coast), the Florida Keys, Ft. Lauderdale and Hollywood (Gold Coast), Ft. Pierce (Treasure Coast), Daytona Beach (Space Coast) and St. Augustine (First Coast). When moments of our boat trips were challenging with the adrenaline surging, Dave would square up to the challenge, steady the course and navigate us safely to some charming marina in time for cocktails on the quarterdeck. Many times he said, “There is a difference between a vacation and an adventure. We are adventuring.” He got that right! What a journey we had.

The best thing we did together was raise our son, Douglas Joseph Downing. After many naval duty stations, we returned to Dave’s native-born State of Texas to settle in one place with extended family close by, knowing these roots would be the right foundation for childrearing. That worked! Doug started elementary school in Denton, Texas, continued through middle and high school there, graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice from University of North Texas, completed the Denton Police Academy, and is a Peace Officer with that department. Dave beamed pride in our son’s accomplishments, found joy being involved in his wedding to Kelli Shuford Downing, and was bursting with happiness following the birth of our first grandchild, Rebecca Rose Downing, on September 30, 2022. We are both grateful Doug made the trip to Florida from our Texas home, spending time with his father and supporting his mother during those last difficult days. Doug was at his Dad’s emergency room bedside helping to calm the agitation. Standing tall and strong, he said, “Dad, articulate to me in one word what you want … food, water, blanket, pill.” With only the slightest pause, Dave became still, looked his son in the eyes, and said, “Freedom.”

We express our gratitude and appreciation to the professionals at William Childs Hospice House in Palm Bay, Florida. Their compassionate care restored Dave’s dignity, comfort, and peace during his short stay. The veteran tribute to Commander David Downing was moving. The “Veteran’s Prayer“ that was read aloud is displayed beside the “Forever a Hero” certificate presented to Dave on his last day.

David Lawrence Downing, now you have your freedom from the angst and pain of cancer and are released from earthly bonds. Yet, you will never be free of the love, respect and admiration held by your loving family and devoted wife of 36 years … “until death do us part.” We will all live fully in the joy of having held you in our lives, remembering you every day, until we reunite again.

His family includes his wife Anne; son Doug; daughter-in-law Kelli; granddaughter Rebecca; mother Josephine; brother Steve; sisters Mary, Kathleen and Patricia; brothers-in-law Robert, Dennis and Don; nieces Jennifer and Josie; nephews Michael and Ben; niece-in-law Ashlee; great-nephew, Lyndon; uncle Tony and aunt Kathy and cousins Annette and Rose. David was preceded in death by his father Joseph James Downing; aunt Virginia Downing and beloved grandparents.

Tunnel to Towers Foundation

Guestbook Entry

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4 entries.
Tony Salvaggio from Dallas wrote on June 17, 2023:
Rest in peace Dave
Saullo Sharon from Fairhope wrote on June 1, 2023:
Anne, such a great man who filled your life and your heart with love, happiness and adventure. I pray these beautiful memories will comfort you. So glad you and Dave lived life to the fullest. With love, Sharon Saullo
Robin Wilson wrote on May 27, 2023:
What a beautiful tribute to a great man and friend. So glad to have known Dave. He had a dry sense of humor that always surprised me 😂 and great love of country 🇺🇸. We sure miss him on D dock. Fair winds and following seas. 🫡
Loran Ellis from Patrick Space Force Base wrote on May 27, 2023:
Many thanks and much appreciation for your sharing of knowledge, the relaxing afternoons at Picnic Point and most of all your friendship.
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