Fr. Arley Downie (1931-2020) served Native communities in Gallup diocese for 27 years

Fr. Arley T. Downie, formerly of Farmington, New Mexico died Aug. 2, at Generations Skilled Care in Rock Island, Illinois, at age 88.

Fr. Downie was born on the family farm in Hooppole, Illinois Dec. 24, 1931 to Thomas G. and Helen E. (Shere) Downie. He was educated in his early years in Merrill, Wisconsin before his family moved to Sterling, Illinois where he attended St. Mary’s and graduated from Community High School. It was there that he met his future wife, Valda G. Nailor. They were married on Aug 7, 1951.

He began his first career Nov. 24, 1951 when he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force where he worked in electronics communications. During this time, he was stationed in bases throughout the world, including England, France and Japan. He excelled in his military career, retiring as a senior master sergeant in 1974. He then moved back to Sterling.

When Val died in 1978, he made another major life decision. He enrolled at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology in Hales Corner, Wisconsin and was ordained March 12, 1988 at St. Mary Parish in Sterling, beginning his new career as a priest.

He relocated to New Mexico where he worked out of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gallup. For the next 27 years he committed his life to spreading the Gospel and doing missionary work on the reservations of Arizona and New Mexico, working with the Navajo, Apache, Zuni and Hopi Native Americans.

Fr. Arley T. Downie

Dec. 24, 1931:
Born in Hooppole, Illinois
Aug. 7, 1951:
Married to Valda G. Nailor
March 12, 1988:
Ordained to the priesthood at St. Mary Parish in Sterling, Illinois
Served in the Diocese of Gallup
Aug. 2, 2020:
Died in Rock Island, Illinois

He moved to Farmington, New Mexico and stayed there until he retired. Fr. Downie loved New Mexico and his work there, according to a published obituary, and had touched many lives and made a significant contribution to the people and communities while he was there.

In 2015 he moved to Fulton, Illinois. He was no stranger to the area as he would visit every summer and fill in at Immaculate Conception where he was a member. He was best known as the priest who started and officiated the Annual ABATE of Iowa District 21 Bike Blessing in downtown Fulton, which he had done faithfully for 30 years. In that time, he blessed thousands of motorcycles and their riders, each individually.

He was an exceptionally unique, giving and caring man who had a great sense of humor, continued the obituary, who could talk comfortably to a stranger and leave a lasting impression. Fr. Downie also enjoyed spending time with his family. He was an avid Cubs fan and loved the outdoors and enjoyed traveling, painting, fishing, bird watching, sports and his rides to the Lock and Dam 13.

He is survived by his daughter, Julie (Downie) Meiners of Fulton, Illinois; 10 grandchildren, Matthew and Jacob Meiners, Shannon and Crystal Cook, Michelle Pfitzer, Tom, Tim, Toni (Howes), Tina and Tanya Richardson; many great-grandchildren and his loving caregivers Joy, Sue and Jen.

He was preceded in death by his wife Val, his parents, brother Tom Downie and two sisters Pat Downie and Marjorie (Downie) Webb.

Fr. James R. Keenan celebrated the Mass of Christian Burial at St. Mary in Sterling Aug. 21.

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