Heaven opened the Gates July 13, 2021, for Clifford "Cliff" Downing, 78 of rural Lawrence. After a long illness he passed peacefully with family by his side. Born at home 1/3/1943, in the Clinton/Lone Star community, to Elmer Downing & Iva (Hasty) Downing. Cliff attended Apple Pie Grade School through 8th grade, Central Junior High School, one year at Overbrook High School & graduated from Lawrence High School in 1962. Soon after graduation he entered the U.S. Navy. He was a Navy Plane Captain and honorably discharged in 1966. He was employed by the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant from 1966 to1973 and then the Kmart distribution Center for 28 yrs. In his retirement and at the urging of Dr Charles Yockey he drove a School bus in the Clinton/Lone Star area. This was something he took great pride in & he had a special bond with the students & they with him.
As a child he loved roaming the nearby area now known as Rockhaven Park at Clinton Lake. A hike in the woods with him was always full of surprises, fun & an opportunity to learn things you wouldn't learn otherwise. He began singing & performing at the young age of five. He learned to play guitar with the help of his older brother, Leslie, who let him accompany him to area dances in the Clinton/Lone Star area and he also called square dances there while still in High School. As a student at CJHS he and friends would sing and play in the school auditorium during the lunch hour, and he was a part of several bands during his Jr High and High School yrs. In 1972 he started the Cliff Downing with BADNEWS band, comprised of long-time friends & family. He and the band were fortunate to play just about any kind of venue or occasion imaginable and opened for several Nashville stars at Shiloh, in Lawrence, and other shows in the Topeka and KC area. He had an amazing ability to memorize lyrics of songs and much of the time never referred to sheet music. The band retired in 1992 but came back together to play for the closing night at Shiloh April 30, 1994.
Cliff & Verna were able to help her parents who owned & operated the Lawrence Skate Center and then occasionally, once the rink was converted to a country night club, Shiloh. So many fond family memories at both the rink and Shiloh.
In 1976 Cliff & Verna moved to the country, just 1/8 mile from where Cliff was born, to build their family home with the help of Verna's Dad, Vernon. Here Cliff planted trees endlessly and dabbled in herb gardening. It was not unusual for him to prepare holiday and special occasion meals. With his fun cookie cutter collection he enjoyed making and intricately decorating the cookies and making time for an array of candies too.
Cliff was a 32° Master Mason with Doric Lodge #83 and a member of the Abdallah Shrine Temple (Oriental Band unit)in Overland Park, Ks.
Clifford is survived by his wife of 52 yrs., Verna Kay (Oelschlaeger) Downing, their daughter, Eryn Ridinger (Justin) & grandson's, Camden & Trenton Ridinger of Eudora, father-in-law, Vernon Oelschlaeger of Lawrence, brother Marlen Downing (Carol) of Prescott, AZ and several nieces & nephews & great nieces & nephews.
Preceding him in death are his parents, his sisters, Arletta Flory and Lois Gaines, brother Leslie Downing and mother-in-law, Edith Douglas Oelschlaeger.
A very special thanks to Douglas County Visiting Nurses Association, Meagan Flick, Mickey Dick and others with VNA for your help and support!
Visitation will be from 6pm to 8pm, Monday July 19th, 2021, at Warren McElwain Mortuary. In lieu of flowers the family suggests donations to Doulas County Visiting Nurses, Association, Clinton Presbyterian Church or The Lawrence Humane Society. Please send donations in care of Warren McElwain Mortuary, 120 W 13th St, Lawrence KS, 66044.
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Published by Lawrence Journal-World on Jul. 15, 2021.