Lt. Jim Downing, second oldest survivor of Pearl Harbor, passes away at 104

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Lt. Jim Downing, the second oldest known survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor, has passed away, The Navigators announced on Tuesday, Feb. 13. He was 104.

Officials say Downing’s heart function declined following surgery in recent weeks.

Downing was born on Aug. 22, 1913 in Oak Grove, Missouri and spent most of his childhood in Plevna, Missouri. He left home for the Navy in 1932 when he was 19-years-old, where his first assignment was on the USS West Virginia, where served as gunner’s mate 1st class and postmaster.

He met his future wife Morena while he was stationed in Southern California in 1940. They married in Hawaii in July 1941.

Just 149 days later, their lives were changed forever by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. During the attack, Downing memorized the name tags of the fallen men around him so he could write a personal letter to their families.

Downing’s Navy career culminated with him becoming the commanding officer of the USS Patapsco from 1952 until 1955 during the Korean War. In 1956, after 24 years in the Navy, he went on to work for The Navigators, a worldwide Christian Ministry, with which he had been affiliated since its founding in 1933.

The Downing family moved to Colorado Springs in 1956 where he became a full-time staff member of The Navigators. During this time he served as Glen Eyrie supervisor, military ministry director, treasurer, headquarters manager, assistant to the president, director of the Navigator ministry in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, vice president, and deputy president.

Downing officially retired in 1983 but continued to travel the world to speak and teach.

He was also the author of three books — Meditation (1976), Living Legacy: Reflections on Dawson Trotman and Lrone Sanny (2007), and The Other Side of Infamy (2016).

Downing is survived by six children, nine grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren, including his daughter Marobeth Ruegg; his son Jon Downing and his wife, Cheryl; son Joe Downing; son Don Downing and his wife, Deb; son David Downing and his wife, Crystal; and daughter Joy Riley and her husband, Mark. His son James died of a heart attack in 2013. Morena, his wife of 68 years, died in 2010.

For more information on Jim Downing’s life and ministry, click here.

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