To our website visitors – normally I wouldn’t use this platform for something so personal, but today i wanted to share a little bit about the best man I’ve known – my Dad. I wrote a piece about his gardening life a few months back that you can read here. I was awakened today, Thursday, May 24, 2018, with a very sad call from my mother. Dad, age 79, passed at 5:55 am this morning, in the nursing home.  He always was an early riser. While not a total surprise, we didn’t expect it this soon. But when does one expect death? He suffered from Lewy Body Dementia, Torticollis and recently a small mass was found on an adrenal gland, the extent of which was unknown due to his advancing dementia and weakened body. Here is a short memory I’d like to share today as part of my processing and healing experience. Thank you for sharing in my grief journey.  ~ jayne


Willard Jay Downing.
Dad and Mom 2012
W J D. My dad. He always went by Jay Downing. Except for his woodworking projects, those he signed “Willard”. He referred to those as Willard Originals. There are a number of Willard Originals among the family now. Until a few years ago, I had a small end table in my home, that he’d built during high school. WOs were built to last, as only Jay Downing knew how to build things, solid, sturdy with excellent craftsmanship.  But honestly, our memories of Dad are the real pieces we treasure. He lived his life, like his projects. He was solid, sturdy and of excellent reputation, deep integrity. All who knew him, knew he said what he meant, and meant what he said. And he only said it once, so don’t ask. Just stay out of his way when he was working. He had zero patience for anyone slowing his pace. His work spoke of his character. Done right. Done to last. Done with excellence. The key word being Done. He never left anything undone.
In 1983, I graduated from Oak Hills Bible College with a two-year certificate in Biblical Studies. A couple of weeks later, I went off to Beauty School – Cosmetology if you want the formal term, driving a classic olive green Chevy Impala. He’d picked up this large “Mrs. Aster” car inexpensively, then applied TLC to it inside and out so I’d have a vehicle, a tank really,  to get me around, now that I was a big kid. First day of Cosmetology School we were given a kit of equipment that we’d  be using throughout our training. Nearly everything was packed tightly in a
J E D circa 1983
black case, stuffed full. Hair brushes, combs, hair cutting cape, clamps, a bunch of hair setting rollers in three sizes and permanent wave rods. Hundreds of perm rods. Five or six sizes, several dozen of each size. We were told to go home and mark everything in the kit with our name or initials. With three classes of students, 25 or 30 students per class, if you wanted to get through the 11 months of training with your equipment, you’d better mark it. How does one mark hundreds of small plastic pieces in a way that won’t wear off, wash off with chemicals or in the sanitizer? My dad took the whole case, down to his work desk. He spent several hours meticulously “engraving” my initials, J E D, with the tip of his soldiering iron, on every single piece. Every perm rod, the snap bead end (Do you know how small those are?), every roller, every hairbrush handle, everything. Even the extra organizer boxes they’d given to us to store clippies, bobby pins, combs and small items. IF he could melt J E D into it, he did. I took my case in to school the next day, confident I would be the only one that would graduation with my stuff.
True to Dad’s character …
Done right. Once I saw one of my brushes on another person’s workstation at school. I asked, “Is that your brush?”  “Yes, it’s mine.” “Then why does it have my initials on the handle?” Done to last. I had those perm rods, and some other pieces of the kit in my possession until a couple of years ago when I had to downsize my life. The rod elastic bands were rotting and I had long given up doing home hairdressing other than haircuts. What I had left still had my initials on them. Done with excellence.  His daughter was going to come out of this beauty school thing with all her stuff. Cuz once you pay for something, you take care of it, use it properly, store is securely and use it for a long time to come. Last week, we were getting dad settled into The Gardens at Cannon Falls nursing home. Friday, May 18. He’d just been released from a three-day hospital stay. Mom had sent some clothes and socks for him. One must have plenty of socks. The nursing staff asked we mark them with his initials. Handed permanent markers, I got to work. I suddenly saw myself writing W J D on his socks. Just like the perm rods and rollers and hair brushes of so long ago. I marked his shirts, pants, belt, pillowcases, socks, everything but what he was wearing at that moment. Dad, I’ve learned from the best. I will always work with integrity. I want to bring honor to your legacy. Done right. Done to last. Done with excellence. Never left undone.
WJD – Willard Jay Downing. WWJD stands for What Would Jesus Do
They are not so different.

But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,

to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.”   Psalm 103: 17 – 18

Dad and Mom May 2018

13 thoughts on “W J D

  1. Shelley says:

    Jayne, what an exceptional example to follow, you do it well! Praying for peace and comfort that only God can give. Love to you and yours.

  2. Walt and Bev says:

    Thank you for a well written article. So thankful he is now in the presence of Jesus. Bev and I love you and are praying for you, your mom and the rest of the family.

  3. Gail Brandt says:

    Your Dad was such a nice man. I remember spending countless hours at your acreage when we were young for our sleepovers, birthday parties, etc. I remember the huge garden he planted and shared lovingly with us the summer my Dad was too sick to work. It was nice to see him a few years ago at their anniversary party. May God be with all of you as you lay to rest your hard working daddy. Love you Bestie!

  4. Mark says:

    Thanks for sharing that! Your dad was a special man. I wonder if your gift of writing came from him. Very well written! Your dad’s struggles are over. You can look forward to seeing him again.

    • jayne says:

      Writing was not his thing. But strong work ethic, git-er-done perseverance (not stubbornness…) i do get from him. And we both love chocolate. 🙂

  5. Peggy and Rick says:

    A simply beautiful expression about a simply lived life. We shall remember with love his life, the lessons, his quiet love for Jesus and the child-like tenderness and trust he demonstrated during his illness. He now knows fullness of joy. I can almost see his smiling face from here. Love to Mary and you.

  6. Dennis & Twila Carlson says:

    What beautiful memories you have of your Dad, and thanks for sharing them with us. We know that he is up in heaven with Jesus. We’re praying that God’s love and peace be with you. We love you. Dennis and Twila Carlson

  7. Debbie says:

    What a beautiful & challenging testimony. Thanks for sharing & we continue to pray as you go thru this valley.

  8. Liz Estler says:

    Dear Jayne,

    So sad to learn of your loss. You’ve written beautifully about your Dad. Please extend our condolences to your mother, Mary. Jay and Mary were on my father’s Christmas card list for years as a cousin. Somehow, last year their card was returned to us in the mail as undeliverable. My father also died this year on November 3rd, and you can find his obituary here: https://www.currentobituary.com/obit/226837

    My grandpa and your grandpa were brothers, and I have a strong memory of your grandma Sara.

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