Harvey Loomer Downing
Given by Linda Eller, then Pastor of Lanark United Methodist Church, Lanark, Illinois

Meditation on the Life of Harvey Downing

Born at home in Preston Prairie Carroll County, Illinois on August 16, 1908

Died at Villas of Shannon Nursing Home early Friday, February 2, 1996

Three generation photograph of Harvey Loomer Downings. Left to right: Harvey Loomer Downing III (1908-1996), often called Harve Downing;
Harvey Loomer Downing II, (1873-1953), called Loomer Downing;
Harvey Loomer Downing IV (1930-2002), called Harvey.

This photograph was taken about 1950 at the Lanark home of Harvey Loomer Downing III. Harvey Loomer Downing I, father was Harvey Loomer Downing II, was born in 1844 and died in 1925.

Theme: “Something in Common”

At a little after midnight last Friday morning death finally came to Harvey Loomer Downing the third, as it does to all men in its season. His was a rich full life of 87 plus years, a life well lived with his wife Ruth for 66 years, and for his son, Harvey IV, his daughter-in-law Olga, and on behalf of his granddaughters, Scarlett and Desiree, whom he loved and those precious great-granddaughters, Emily and Erin, of whom he was so proud.

Harvey, who was always straightforward, spoke his mind and minced no words, was a strong personality, a marvelous storyteller about town and area historian. He had a remarkable facility for remembering details. He could find something in common with any person he met if he involved them in conversation for even a few minutes. This included people on the street, farm yards, and local businesses. Harvey was a great people person, through and through! Everyone in this room can probably remember a time or perhaps many times that you’ve had a wonderful long talk with him. He took time to be himself with people.

His mind was sharp and alert until his last two days, when by God’s grace, he slipped into a coma. He endured many hardships throughout the years - had much pain in those long days and nights at the end when Ruth, Harvey Jr. and Olga, friends, relatives, and neighbors came to his bedside. In fact he endured pain what many others would have found unbearable. He was so grateful for Ruth’s daily companionship, her steadfastness and courage, which in turn gave him hope.

As we begin to talk about his life among us, you’ll see some of the things which shaped his character, which may have seemed to some abrupt and gruff on the exterior. However those who knew him closely knew the generous heart of the man, who was one of the sweetest and most loving persons you could ever meet.

As you remaining sisters and brother well know, Harvey came from hardy pioneer stock in this county. Your grandmother was the first girl born in Carroll County. (Note: this isn’t so, but she was among the children born in the early days of Mt. Carroll Township.) Growing up on a farm in Preston Prairie over by Center Hill School, you had to be tough to survive. Like some others here, Harvey went to a country grade school and there were no school buses then to pick you up on the farm. No fancy highways, just horse and buggies, bob sleds to take you into town in the winter for supplies, and on those cold winter days a big bobsled would take everyone to school or to church on a Sunday morning. Ruth Metz grew up a couple of miles from Harvey; they went to the same high school together in Mt. Carroll, and dated when Ruth was a friend of one of his sisters and Harvey a friend of one of her brothers. It must have clicked as they fell in love and were married 66 years ago on September 18, 1929 in Mt. Carroll.

Harvey was a farmer, a good carpenter and builder, and together father and son built their own homes and homes for many others in town. Farming and animals were his love too, and he always bought, broke and sold horses. He started out with broncos, training them for work, and later training riding horses. Donald MacKay had a ranch out in Montana and shipped in plenty of horses and cattle in the area. The Downing farm always had 5 or 6 horses around. Fact is, back in the gas rationing days of World War II, after the Downing’s had moved to that 100 acre farm inside Lanark city limits, across from Rogers, folks in Lanark rode a lot of horses. On Saturday, the family was remembering the Lanark Saddle Club had over 90 people, everyone had horses, the Lowers, Russ Rand’s, the Duncans with those Tennessee Walkers, and a fun time for all were those trail rides when 300 to 400 folks would start off at Palisades Park. Hard to recall now in a day of pickup trucks and cars, snowmobiles instead of bobsleds…

During the war years, for some who didn’t go overseas there was a special bunch of fellows, the “Center Hill Regulars,” who were a military training group around that area of the edge of Preston Prairie, in between Mt. Carroll and Savanna. They became great buddies, put on plays and made $$ for the war effort, built a cabin to hold their meetings, and eventually let some of their wives and sweethearts also in on some of the fun. They used to build carts on top of old wheel axels and take moonlit rides at night. That could probably hold its own with any snowmobile fun. Don’t know if the winters got this cold though.

Harvey worked hard, played hard and put much time and effort in the churches to which he belonged before he had the unfortunate accident with a corn picker and lost part of his hand. Even on that very day, he had to see to the cattle, the horses, and the corn crop before he finally got himself to the hospital. Harvey and Ruth were members of the Center Hill Church, then when they came to Lanark in 1944 they attended the Church of the Brethren because they knew lots of folks there. Ruth’s cousin was a Methodist and invited them to come over to the Methodist Church, which they eventually joined, and have been members over 50 years. Harvey at one time chaired the official board, and Ruth was Sunday School Supt. He wasn’t afraid of hard work. When there were flooring problems with the sills, he and John Warner would lay down on their backs and get the work done. Harvey and Ruth over the years have also helped a lot of young people in this town get started on their first jobs.

When Ruth had some health problems a few years ago, they moved to Tucson, Arizona for a time. Ruth loved it and her health improved, but Harvey couldn’t find work then and came back to the farm. He’d fly out frequently to visit Ruth and eventually the family was reunited back here in Lanark.

Harvey Downing may not have been farming, breaking broncos or building houses in his later years, but he fulfilled a role which is equally important. As I said before, he had Something In Common with all of you. He took time to stop and visit, to talk and to listen in this fast paced world of ours, and that’s a rare gift. Harvey, you were and will always be one of God’s tough sons, who loved life and your family deeply, and all God’s people. We salute you, and we’ll miss you!

The notes for this eulogy were originally provided to Vivian Downing Luettig, who copied them for her sister, Florence L. Downing Horner, my mother. Both Vivian and Florence were sisters of Harvey L. Downing. This eulogy was transcribed by Alice Horner, with permission of Lanark United Methodist Church.

Memories of You Harvey
Written by his sister, Florence Downing Horner

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