WOOSTER – Floyd Downs, a longtime Wooster resident, passed away on Wednesday, June 19, 2019 after a long battle with prostate cancer. Floyd was born in Philadelphia, Pa. on Feb. 14, 1936, the fifth of the six children of Malcolm Clifford and Kathryn Bensinger Downs. He earned a B.A. in Biology at Cornell University, and while there was elected into the Red Key junior men’s honorary society and the Quill and Dagger senior men’s honorary society. He then earned an M.S. and Ph. D. in Zoology from the University of Michigan. He married Joanne De Hollander on Aug. 26, 1961.
Dr. Downs arrived at the College of Wooster in 1963, and taught in the Biology Department for 35 years. Over those years, he taught a number of courses, but his greatest joy was his course in Vertebrate Natural History, which allowed him to take students into the field to experience the diversity of life that surrounds us. He assumed the chairmanship of the Department as he neared retirement.
He was trained as a herpetologist, and published a major study of the relationships among a large group of secretive snakes from Central America. When a previously unknown species of that group was discovered in southern Costa Rica, the discoverer immortalized Floyd by naming the new species Geophis downsi. in recognition of that work. In Ohio, Floyd worked on mole salamanders, a group in which many of the populations in the northwestern part of the state are of hybrid origin and consist only of females. The Ohio Biological Survey asked Floyd to take over the editorship of their planned multi-authored book on Ohio salamanders. He was proud that the final product was widely acclaimed and quickly sold out two printings.
Floyd’s love of the natural world led to many family tent-camping ventures to Florida and the western states, often in the company of the family of a cherished colleague, Andrew Weaver. In 1975, he drove the family from Wooster to Costa Rica, where the family lived for nine months and fell in love with that beautiful country, its people, and it’s amazing biodiversity. In retirement, when Floyd’s attention shifted back to his original love of birds, he and Joanne returned to Costa Rica 3 times on birding trips, as well as birding from Mexico to Panama, into South America, the islands of Trinidad/Tobago, Jamaica, and Cuba, and throughout the states, including three weeks in immense Alaska.
Despite losing one eye in a backyard accident when he was four, Floyd won many trophies as a junior tennis player, and was captain of Cornell’s tennis team in his senior year. At the intramural level at one or the other of Cornell, Michigan, and the College, he was a shortstop in softball, quarterback in touch football, and point guard in basketball. He was an avid golfer, and in Wooster even played on a travelling volleyball team. For a number of years he enjoyed coaching a team in Wooster’s Young Women’s Softball League. Athletic competition ran in his blood.
His loving wife of 58 years survives, and will miss him dearly. The two were very much a team.
Floyd was preceded in death by his parents and oldest sister, Marilyn. He leaves behind daughter Jennifer (Daniel) Zimmerman of Mulliken, MI, their children, Jacob and Jada, daughter Deborah Spencer of St. Petersburg, FL and her two sons, Clayton and Graham Spencer. His four other siblings, Malcolm (Jane), Gladys Hull, David (Mary) and Deborah (Jerry Feldman) Kearney survive, as well as numerous nephews and nieces.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to: The Nature Conservancy, Attn: Treasury, 4245 N Fairfax Dr., Suite 100, Arlington, VA 22203 or The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 159 Sapsucker Rd., Ithaca, NY 14850 and Ohio s Hospice LifeCare, 1900 Akron Rd., Wooster, OH 44691.
A Celebration of Life Service will be held on Sunday, June 30, 2019 at 3:00 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Wayne Co., 3186 Burbank Rd., Wooster with Rev. Dr. V. Elaine Strawn officiating. The family will greet friends following the service.
McIntire, Bradham & Sleek Funeral Home, 216 E. Larwill St., Wooster is assisting the family.
Online condolences may be left for the family at www.mcintirebradhamsleek.com.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to: The Nature Conservancy, Attn: Treasury, 4245 N Fairfax Dr., Suite 100, Arlington, VA 2220~ at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 159 Sapsucker Rd., Ithaca, NY 14850 and Ohio s Hospice LifeCare, 1900 Akron Rd., Wooster, OH 44691.
Sunday, June 30, 2019 at 3:00 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Wayne Co., 3186 Burbank Rd., Wooster
Family will greet friends following service