Mary Madeline Downey (nee Zelenak)

September 8, 1923 – February 4, 2019
In the true spirit of our extraordinary mother, we tell you with full hearts of Mary’s peaceful passing

on February 4th, 2019 at the age of 95. Because of her indomitable strength, intelligence, generosity and sense of humor, we, her daughters, are badly bruised – but not broken. Our mother’s final gift was to prepare us for this transition, which we gratefully accept with love and grace.

Mary was born an only child in the small town of Bodrogkeresztur, Hungary to Rose and Joseph Zelenak. They emigrated to Canada in 1928. One of the first memories our mother had of that time was that many people on the ship were seasick – but not Mary! Her early years in Montreal were exceedingly difficult, as was much of her adult life. She loved people, and chose to embrace Life and all of its challenges – no matter what – with immense courage, integrity, curiosity, kindness and humor. Despite only having a grade 8 education, she went on to become remarkably literate. She had countless Letters to the Editor published in various newspapers over the years, and got quite incensed when people failed to observe correct English language, grammar, spelling, composition and punctuation. She is sitting on our shoulders as we write this; no pressure!

Mary was for many years a working mom raising three girls on her own. Despite the fact that she worked full-time, she also managed to be a wonderful homemaker. She was an accomplished and creative cook, avid gardener, sewer, knitter, decorator and artist who won many awards for her handicrafts. She also found the resources and time to make sure that we were exposed to and had training in music, theatre, and dance. She genuinely appreciated and actively supported artists and various charities of all kinds for her entire life.

Mary loved music, nature, and children – especially babies. She cherished both earthly and spiritual beauty. She often overflowed with joy and sought to share it with others. Without fail she approached each day impeccably dressed, “bejeweled”, and with her blonde hair professionally styled. It was her greatest pleasure to uplift people, and to see them smile or laugh. Mary is planning to become a Spanish flamenco dancer in her next Life!

Mary was predeceased by her husband of 35 years, Lawrence Downey, with whom she spent the very happiest of all her years. Survived by her daughters, Patti, Michelle and Wendy, granddaughters Andrea (Vlad) and Zoe, and her great grandchildren, Sasha, Matti, Tia and Tente.

Special thanks to Sue Cummings, Mary’s “little sister” and very closest, loving friend. Thanks also to all of the good people at Westminster House who took such good care of Mary during the last four years.

All who knew and cared about Mary are welcome to attend a Memorial Service being held on Saturday, March 2nd at 11:00 am at Peninsula United Church, 2756 127 St. Surrey BC. (Cresent Beach Site)

In lieu of flowers, Mary would like donations to be made to Peace Arch Hospice Society.


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