James Chapin Downey

Jun 23, 2013 Staff

James Chapin Downey, formerly of Riverton, died Thursday, June 20, 2013. He was 82 years old.

Services are at 10 a.m. Tuesday, June 25, at the Rigby LDS Stake Center in Rigby, Idaho. Visitation is from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday, June 24, and from 9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. Tuesday, June 25, at the church.

Burial follows in the Rigby Pioneer Cemetery. Services are under the direction of Eckersell Memorial Chapel in Rigby, Idaho.

James Chapin Downey was born Dec. 4, 1930, in Riverton, the oldest child of William Kenneth Downey and Marguerite Harriet Chapin.

He attended schools in Riverton, Lander and Roosevelt, Utah. He graduated from Riverton High School in 1949. He attended Colorado State College of Education in Greeley, Colo., for one year and then transferred to Utah State Agricultural College in Logan, Utah, from which he graduate in June 1954 with a degree in welding engineering. He also was a graduate of the Air Force ROTC program at Utah State.

He married his childhood sweetheart, Carolyn Ruth Snyder, on March 17, 1951, at the First Methodist Church in Lander.

After he graduated from college he and his wife moved to Auburn, Wash., where he was employed by the Boeing Company from 1954 to 1969 in the tool production planning department and in welding research, where he developed the procedures for fusion welding of titanium, chrome nickel alloys and aluminum dip brazing.

He also developed a patent for an in-place tube welding torch and created the coating that protects the space shuttles from burning while going through the atmosphere. He moved to Rigby, Idaho, in March 1969 and was employed at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory for different contractors for 19 years.

He also taught three years for faculty on sabbatical at Ricks College in the welding and manufacturing engineering departments as well as teaching in the engineering department for one year at Utah State University. He was asked by Texas A&M University, during the summer of 1980, to develop the welding and metallurgy curriculum.

He served on the Jefferson County School Board for six years while living in Rigby, Idaho, from 1969 to 1982.

He was active in the LDS Church since he and his wife joined the church in 1962. He was a bishop and high councilman on the Ricks College campus and served in several bishoprics in Auburn, Wash., and in Rigby. While living in Auburn, Wash., he was called on a stake mission to work with the Muckleshoot Indian Reservation where he was instrumental in creating the first Indian seminary program for the reservation. His family said he loved working with the Indian people and wanted to serve them. He also worked in the Idaho Falls, Idaho, temple for a short time. He served a mission with his wife as the first directors of the six-stake Rexburg Family History Center from 1997 to 2002.

Upon moving back to Rigby, he served in the Rigby Stake Family History Center until his health prevented his doing so. He was very conscientious in doing his own family history work. In December 2011, he was awarded the Modern Pioneer Service Award from the National Society of the Sons of Utah Pioneers, Upper Snake River Valley Chapter, for his contribution in initiating the photographing of headstones in cemeteries in Madison and Jefferson counties.

His family said he enjoyed working with his hands, doing leatherwork and photography, and enjoyed planting and harvesting a garden each year.

"He loved all of his family and looked forward to the time he could be with them," a family statement reads. "Even after several strokes in 2009 and a severe heart attack in March 2011, he retained his sense of humor and constantly told his wife how much he loved her. He was a great example to his entire family."

He lived in Rexburg for 20 years, moving back to Rigby in 2001.

He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Carolyn; daughters Cheryl L. Tennant and husband Mike of Fruita, Colo., and Barbara L. Derricott and husband Kent of Bountiful, Utah; sons Ralph M. Downey and wife Diane of Pueblo, Colo., and Brian W. Downey and wife Danette of Rexburg, Idaho; 21 grandchildren; 19 great-grandchildren with four on the way; sisters Dorothy Downey of Amarillo, Texas, Sheila Whitlock of Greybull, Donna Cielinski of Victor, Mont., and Kathleen Mathews of Parker, Colo.

He was preceded in death by his parents; granddaughter Jessica Lyn Downey; and great-granddaughter Naomi Ruth Tennant.

Services are under the direction of Eckersell Memorial Chapel in Rigby, Idaho (

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