Dec. 1, 1925 — May 4, 2015
Walla Walla, Washington
Duane Downing, 89, passed away peacefully on May 4, 2015, in Walla Walla. Duane was born Dec. 1, 1925, in Scio, Ore., to Orville and Mabel Downing. He grew up on a ranch in Lyons with his two younger sisters, Juanita and Modena. After serving in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II, Duane graduated in 1949 from Oregon State University with a degree in electrical engineering. Upon graduation, he went to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Portland, where he met and married the love of his life, Elaine Johnson. Their daughter, Paula, was born in 1951 and daughter, Donna, in 1956. Duane and his family moved to Walla Walla in 1965 after he was selected to be Chief of Operations for the Corps’ Walla Walla District.
Duane was always very proud of the Corps of Engineers and the work he did. As Operations Chief, Duane supervised operations of all Corps facilities on the Snake and Columbia rivers from Jackson, Wyo., to John Day, Ore. Responsibilities varied widely, ranging from overseeing dedications of John Day and Dworshak dams to ensuring dam operations met the Corps’ multi-purpose goals, including navigation, power generation and recreation. During Duane’s tenure as Operations Chief, the Walla Walla District’s hydroelectric generation capacity grew from 17 to 41 units capable of generating 4,413,000 kilowatts — one-fourth of the Corps’ nationwide generation capacity. Duane also organized the federal response to the failure of the Teton Dam in Idaho and to the 1963 Alaska earthquake. Prior to retirement in 1983, Duane was awarded the Meritorious Civilian Service Award by the Department of the Army.
Duane didn’t slow down much after retirement, occasionally saying “retirement just means there’s no quitting time.” He helped his parents with the family ranch, traveled with Elaine, enjoyed visiting family, grew huge tomatoes, went ballroom dancing and played a lot of poker. While Duane enjoyed Omaha and Texas Hold’Em and the fact he actually earned a net profit playing, he particularly appreciated all the friends he made at poker tournaments and casual games. After Elaine passed in 2007, Duane continued his activities, often visiting Paula in Arizona, and Donna and her husband David in Virginia. Duane loved telling stories, particularly about what “the kids” and other family members were doing and their latest accomplishments. He had a rare ability to make friends with almost anybody he met. Duane was much loved and will be missed.
Duane is survived by his daughter, Paula King of Mesa, AZ; daughter, Donna Downing and her husband David Reich of Arlington, VA; sister, Juanita Brown of Springfield, OR; and many nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews scattered throughout the West.
Arrangements entrusted to Mountain View-Colonial DeWitt, 1551 The Dalles Military Road, Walla Walla. A graveside service will be held on Saturday, August 15, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. at Fox Valley Cemetery in Lyons, Oregon.
Donations in Duane’s honor can be made to the Walla Walla Senior Center through Mountain View-Colonial DeWitt, 1551 The Dalles Military Road, Walla Walla, WA 99362. Family and friends may leave comments and condolences below or share memories and sign an online guestbook at www.mountainview-colonialdewitt.com.
Arrangements entrusted to Weddle Funeral Services Stayton, Oregon