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William Blaine Downs, Jr.

William Blaine Downs, Jr., 69, of Cody, WY passed away peacefully at the Spirit Mountain Hospice House in Cody, WY on April 23, 2023.

Bill was born in Helena, MT on Aug. 15, 1953 to William B. Downs, Sr. and Martha Patton “Pat” Brumfield. He joined older sister, Linda in the family home on Hauser Blvd. From an early age, it was clear Bill would be a naturalist, nomad, mischief maker and all around Renaissance man. Bill was active in scouts and DeMolay. It was during this time he built his own ham radio set, communicating with other radio operators throughout the world using Morse code. While in college he earned his pilot’s license, enjoying many hours soaring over the Helena valley.

William Blaine Downs, Jr.
William Blaine Downs, Jr.

He attended l Helena elementary schools, graduating from Helena High School in 1971. He furthered his education by completing his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from Montana State University in 1975.

After working several years in the engineering field, he decided a change of pace was in order. Bill traveled the United States on a thirty day rail pass, jumping off on day thirty in Whitefish, MT. Sitting in the railway station formulating the next plan, he was approached by a women looking for folks to invite home for a hot meal. He had the meal, befriended the couple, and ended up house sitting for them for the winter. It was here that he found a little slice of heaven working and living as a ski bum at Big Mountain.

Never one to let the grass grow under his feet, he enlisted in the Peace Corps. He served three years in the State of Sabah, East Malaysia on the north coast of Borneo. Upon his return to the USA, he worked as a cook at the Double Arrow Resort in Seeley Lake and later as a health inspector on the highline in northern Montana.

With some of his wanderlust satisfied, he returned to school, receiving a Masters’ Degree in Chemical Engineering from Montana State University in 1985 and later his PHD in Chemical Engineering in 1992 from Auburn University in Alabama.

He met the love of his life, Juliet Jean Gray, while in Alabama. They were married Sept. 7, 1991. During their marriage the couple moved with his career to Arlington Height, IL, Gainesville, FL, Atlanta, GA, finally settling in Charles City, IA. They had nineteen wonderful years together until her death in 2010.

He moved to Cody, WY in 2011, working at Cody Labs until his retirement.

Bill looked upon each day as a blank canvas ready to be painted. His curiosity and love of learning knew no bounds. He always had a project, whether it be building a radio set on the dining room table, or raising chickens during Covid. Forever the scientist, there was always a tolerance for mistakes, another opportunity to learn and a sparkling sense of humor when something didn’t to quite as planned.

He attended several Burning Man gatherings, teepee in tow, and was quite proud of the ice cream cooler he rigged with dry ice to keep ice cream bars frozen for the weeklong festivities so as to hand them out to weary travelers on the last day. He made many friends with his ingenuity and ice cream.

He was an avid hiker and skier. He grew up on the slopes of Belmont and at the family cabin at Bridger Bowl, with a goal to always get first tracks in the fresh powder. He loved the great outdoors including hiking, skiing, gardening or just cooking a steak on the barbeque. He love to cook and was always experimenting with new ingredients. His sourdough bread loaves were picture perfect. We will forever remember him getting shooed from the kitchen for adding something extra or taking a nibble from whatever mom had cooking on the stove.

Bill loved opera and in 2022 fulfilled his dream of attending an opera in Milan, Italy. A later in life hobby of painting kept him occupied for hours. He could often be found at his easel while his favorite opera played in the background. He was always up for a game of Scrabble and it was always quite an accomplishment for his grand-niece and nephew to beat their Uncle Billy at chess or cribbage.

He went by many names to those who knew and loved him. William, Bill, Uncle Billy and BeeWee. Anyone lucky enough to cross any one of his many wandering paths will hopefully continue to honor his passion and gratitude for living the best life. He will be greatly missed.

Survivors include his mother, Martha “Pat” Downs of Boise, ID; sister, Linda (Rick) Ashworth of Helena, MT; nieces, Erica Stroh of Boise, ID and her daughter Jadyn Stroh of Missoula and Ashley (Mike) Welch and their children, Miles, Eva and Laudie of Boise; Aunt, Doris (Jim) Powell of Helena; and special cousins, Donna Downs of Denver, Mark (Rhonda) Golden of Columbus, MT and Terry (Anne) Brumfield of Reedpoint, MT.

He was preceded in death by his father, William B. Downs, Sr. in 2003; his wife Juliet in 2010 and his best friend Dave Duensing in 2010.

Special thanks to the friends of Bill W., the nurses and staff at the Spirit Mountain Hospice House and the Cody Cancer Center.

At his request, no services will be held. Cremation has taken place. If you wish, memorial donations can be made to the Spirit Mountain Hospice House in Cody, WY or to the charity of your choice.

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