On November 1, 2022, All Saints Day, the Rev. Dr. Robert Thomas Downs, Jr., went to be with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Born to Bill and Ada Downs in Portland, OR, on February 10, 1941, Bob grew up with his sister Sally in Seattle, WA, where he was known to family and friends as “Butch.”
He attended Cleveland High School where he wrote for the newspaper and was Master Councilor of his DeMolay chapter. While at the University of Washington he met his bride-to-be, Joan Boyden. They married in 1964 and moved to New Jersey, where Bob received his Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. He later earned a Doctor of Ministry from the same institution. He was called to his first church in East Brook, PA, and moved to Pittsburgh in 1971, where he spent the next 35 years pastoring the Emsworth U.P. Church.
Bob loved being a pastor. He used his gifts and talents to serve the Lord in a variety of ways, always with one goal: to share the love of Christ and bring people into the Kingdom of God. With legendary creativity and elaborate set designs, he created Vacation Bible Schools and shared God’s love with hundreds of neighborhood children, “transporting” them around the world and even to the land of Narnia. Bob’s love of travel and heart for spreading the gospel inspired him to participate in many mission trips around the world. In 1988, he organized and led a trip to India for his family. The trip, which included his children and their high school and college-aged friends, had a significant and long-lasting impact on all of them. Bob had a sincere and heartfelt desire to care for others. He visited the sick in their homes and at the hospital, ministered to prisoners at the jail, and led countless Bible studies with people in his church and neighborhood. Although he enjoyed every element of shepherding a congregation, his true passion was preaching the Word of God. He delivered expository sermons with pinpoint precision, and passionately unpacked the Scriptures, relentlessly reminding everyone of God’s amazing grace.
Bob retired in 2006, but later joined the staff of the Ken Mawr U.P. Church in McKees Rocks on a part-time basis in 2013, where he continued to live out his calling. He was active in ministry up until his last day on this earth.
In his prime, Bob swam a mile every day at the Sewickley YMCA, and continued to swim as often as he could. He enjoyed kayaking and rollerblading, picking blueberries to make scones and jam, walking his dog, Nathaniel, attending the ballet and symphony, voraciously reading thousands of books, eating Frango mints, and bringing flowers home to his wife every Saturday. He will be deeply missed by his beloved wife, Joan; children, Becky (George) and Micah (Pippa); his sister, Sally Downs; grandchildren Stephanie (Jerry), Wesley, Sarah, Tolomé, Hudson, Elena, Lydia, and Mateo; and two great-grandchildren, Layla and Jackson.
Friends are welcome to visit with the family on Friday from 4:30 – 7:30 pm at the Ken Mawr United Presbyterian Church, 1760 Pine Hollow Rd, McKees Rocks, PA 15136 where a Memorial Service will be held on Saturday at 11 am. In lieu of flowers, the family suggest donations be made to Samaritan's Purse at https://www.samaritanspurse.org/ or PRISM (Pittsburgh Region International Student Ministries) at https://prismpgh.org/home/give-back/ in Bob’s name. Arrangements entrusted to R. D. Copeland, Inc.