Uncle Phay and Aunt Pearl Downey
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Uncle Edward Phay Downey ( 1902 - 1988 )---oldest son of Michael Edward Downey and then Ellen Whitehead Downey, brother of Eugene H. Downey (1904), E. Gerald Downey (1906 ?), Ervin Downey (1910 ?) and half-brother of twins, Robert Butler Black and William Wilson Black (1920), husband of Pearl ____________ Downey (married in yyyy), and father of identical twins Earl Downey (xxxx-yyyyy) and Bill Downey (xxxx-yyyy), Dorothy Downey Hollinsworth (xxxx-      ), and Jean Downey Ireland (xxxx-       ).


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What you're listning to:  It's a composite of me playing "All hail the power of Jesus' name" --- (1) first on our 104-year old piano, (2) followed by me again on our Yamaha electronic keyboard in the 'organ voice', and (3) followed by the GTA Praise Band,  a Christian Rock group out of London, Ontario, Canada.
...H. Bruce Downey, a nephew of Phay and Pearl Downey 

"Hail him who saves you by his grace, and crown him Lord of all..."
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My father's oldest brother was Edward Phay Downey--- a Presbyterian minister from Michigan, who in his retirement years founded "The Church-By-The-Sea"  in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  At first (1954) this church operated out of a vacant storefront in the Ft. Lauderdale area.  Soon, word of the organizing efforts by this retired minister Uncle of mine spread and other retirees in the area came --- first by the dozens, then by the hundreds, and eventually by the thousands.  And from such humble beginnings as these, their non-denominational church was built near water's edge...
and before my Uncle Phay died, a life-sized portrait of his likeness was commissioned and placed inside the Church Sanctuary where it hangs to this very day.  After my Uncle Phay's death--- and that of my Aunt Pearl--- they were both buried on the grounds of the Church that he founded in his "retirement" over 50 years ago.

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 "The following is a 2003 "50th Anniversary"  production made
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MY MOTHERS SIDE. . . BY EDWARD PHAY DOWNEY, in his own words (with annotations by H. Bruce Downey in red simply for clarification purposes)


              Ellen Whitehead was born near Pittsburgh, of English extraction. When playmates teased her about her name, Whitehead, my grandfather, William Wilson Whitehead, would say, "They may call you 'Blackhead' it wouldn't matter, you tell them you have a relative buried in Westminster Abby (Cecil Rhodes)."


             In many ways my grandfather was a brilliant man. Without formal education, he devised one of the first successful autos. I often wonder what happened to the blueprints he showed me. They belong in a museum. He made $20.00 a day as an appraiser of factory machinery when this was a fabulous salary but spent it all on booze - until he was converted, about the same time I was! In a drunken stupor at a hotel in Toledo, he suddenly heard an angel choir singing. He looked out of the window of his room and saw 10-12 people of earlier acquaintance, now angels, and was converted on the spot!  He quit drinking and started preaching, opening a rescue mission where he happened to be working. He lived on almost nothing, saved his money, and when he had quite a bank account for those days, he would devote full time to his mission. I first met him just before I went to Blackburn College and had no more respect for his religion than I had for my father's (Michael Edward Downey). He lived to be 87 and was very senile the last three years of his life, and started drinking again---when he could get the stuff!


             My maternal grandmother (Maria McCullom Whitehead), according to my mother (then Ellen Susan Whitehead Downey), was a saint. She never raised her         voice, wouldnt even say darn let alone damn. When the children complained (three girls and a boy) ---that would be Phay's mother, Ellen, and her sisters, Della and Alice Whitehead, and her brother Robert Whitehead Sr.--- she would say, "Shhh! Remember: he's your father." He deserted his children when he put his wife, Maria, in a mental institution (change of life), sired a girlchild (Bertha Whitehead Schultz) with a common law wife (Lilly Hope Humble) who died at childbirth (actually, Lilly died of complications from a miscarriage)  and at the cemetery met a German woman (Elizabeth Schultz---later known as 'Grandma Schultz') who had just buried her husband, lived with her long enough to tell about his other children, then deserted her (Uncle Bill's account indicates that it was Elizabeth Schultz who threw William Whitehead out when she found out about the truth of the matter) but, at least, he married her, though his first wife (Maria, institutionalized) was still alive! Grandma Schultz Whitehead took the trouble to find all the Whitehead children, take the baby (Bertha Whitehead Schultz) and 10 year old Bob (Robert Whitehead, Jr.) into her home, adopt another boy (Walter) Bob's age [actually Walter was a tad older than Robert Whitehead Jr.], and raise the three children to maturity. And she was only a charwoman! I idolized her during my boyhood.


             My mother was a housemaid at sixteen. [Actually Uncle Phay mixed this up a bit.  The housemaid job would come many years later.  After Ellen divorced Michael Edward Downey in 1917-1918 when Ellen was say 33, she went to work as a domestic for Sherman Black.  So when Ellen was only sixteen she was working in a candy store which is where Michael Edward Downey found her just after the turn of the century].  She barely started on the job when my father (Michael Edward Downey) came to visit the women for whom she worked. They (meaning Michael and Ellen) fell in love, married; at 17, she became my mamma and had three other children by 21 and a fourth by age 25, all boys--- Phay, Eugene, Gerald, and Ervin. Only Gerald is alive of my full brothers and resides somewhere in the St. Petersburg, Fl area. He rebuffs all family members and they simply have nothing to do with him, including myself! He says, "You'll roast in hell when you die" to his preacher brother.


              My mother had fifteen years of hell on earth with my father (Michael Edward Downey). He beat her violently, as he did the (i.e., 'us') children on occasion. At thirteen I had finished 8th grade. Shortly after graduation, he was giving my mother a "going over." I took a heavy glass paper weight and threw it at him. He dropped my mother and chased me...out the front door and down the street. He was too fat to catch me. I led him by a saloon, he stopped for a drink. It was night time. I went home, packed a few clothes, took a blanket, a throw rug, and spent the summer night sleeping under the stars, and never lived with my father again. My mother promised to leave (eventually I paid for her divorce, $60.00 borrowed money from Uncle Bob.) ---i.e., Robert Whitehead Sr., Ellen Whitehead's brother.


              Temporarily she (i.e., Uncle Phay's now divorced mother, Ellen Whitehead) and the younger children (i.e., his brothers, Gene, Gerald, and Ervin Downey) went to Grandma Schultz house until my mother located a job as maid, cleaning silverware in a Chicago mansion---the home of Sherman Butler Black. The baby (Ervin Downey) stayed with her; Gene and Gerald lived in a widow's home she made her living boarding orphan children. I went to work at South Shore Country Club, made enough to support my brothers (Gene and Gerald's room and board, $1.00 a day per child) ---actually it was $1.00 a week as per Uncle Bill Black's account---until my mother married a wonderful guy,  Sherman Butler Black, for whom she had gone to work as housekeeper. Twin boys were born, Bill and Bob Black. Bob, a Bataan - Corregidor Japanese prisoner during WW Two, is deceased. Bill lives in Little Rock, Ark.


              I lived here-there-and-yon until Uncle Bob (Ellen Whitehead's brother) and Aunt Alma set up housekeeping [meaning until Robert married Alma] . They took me into their hearts and provided a home for me until I married and had a home of my own. They had no children for several years. Young Bob (meaning Robert Whitehead, Jr.) is four years older than our Earl and Bill (twin sons of Phay and Pearl Downey).  Daily I thank God for....transmission ends here, unfortunately.



.....taken from a letter written to Uncle Bill Black by Uncle Phay Downey in his twilight years---perhaps in 1986, just two year's before his death in 1988---    


Reflections on the life and times of Uncle Phay---The Rev. E. Phay Downey, DD---by his nephew, H. Bruce Downey

Uncle Phay, like my father, Eugene H. Downey, certainly had a tough time as a child, leaving home when he was just a young teenager in response to abuse by his father, Michael Edward Downey.  Fortunately, his mother's brother, Robert Whitehead, Sr. and his wife, Alma Whitehead, took Uncle Phay into their home when he most needed help, love, and understanding.  And when the time came, it was his Uncle Bob and Aunt Alma who were instrumental in directing Uncle Phay to Blackburn College in Carlinville, IL where there was plenty of opportunity to work the many farms that Blackburn owned and operated to help defray the cost of his room, board, and tuition.  And that's why my father, Eugene Harold Downey, followed his brother, Phay, to Blackburn College.  It was while at Blackburn that Uncle Phay was to meet his future wife, my Aunt Pearl, who at the time was on the faculty of Blackburn College.  I believe Uncle Phay completed his undergraduate degree at Blackburn College and from there went on to Divinity School where he became a Presbyterian minister.  And by the time I came along in 1934, Uncle Phay's calling brought him to the First Presbyterian Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as I recall visiting Uncle Phay, Aunt Pearl, and their family, twins Bill and Earl Downey, and daughters, Dorothy and Jean Downey, at this church and also at their summer cabin somewhere in Michigan during the WWII years.  And I believe Uncle Phay was awarded an honorary Doctorate Degree from ______________during those years at the Grand Rapids, MI church.   

Looking back, I think that there were two things that were really extraordinary about the lives of Uncle Phay, Aunt Pearl, and their four children.  Twins Bill and Earl both became Presbyterian ministers in their own right, while Dorothy and her husband, Jim Hollandsworth, became life-long missionaries in Mexico, and Jean married Owen Ireland who also became a Presyterian minister.  As a young man myself, I remember going to Owen's first church in a tiny, one-street town somewhere in the middle of Illinois farmland.  The town was named Ladd, IL.  Owen and Jean were so enthusiastic about their very first ministry.  Later Owen became minister of one of the Ft. Lauderdale, FL Presbyterian Churches, and Nancy and I and our children, Scott, Stuart, and David Downey, would attend Owen's Church while vacationing in Ft. Lauderdale, and of couse we also would go to Owen's and Jean's and their family's house as well.  Still later, Owen would go into the counseling end of his ministry.   

And the second extraordinary thing about Uncle Phay and Aunt Pearl's life is that once they retired from the Presbyerian ministry to the Ft. Lauderdale, FL area, they started a brand new, non-denominational church which they named, "The-Church-By-The-Sea."  In its humble beginnings the new church held Sunday morning breakfast services at a Ft. Lauderdale hotel on the beach known as "The Yankee Clipper."  But within just a few short years the church grew and propspered.  Property was purchased near the Ft. Lauderdale beach, right on the water's edge, and a large sanctuary was built including beautiful surrounding grounds.  And in Uncle Phay's later years, his sons---first Earl, then much later, Bill Downey---assisted their father in his ministry to The Church-By-The-Sea.  And to this very day a large, life-sized portrait of Uncle Phay still hangs in the vestry of the Church sanctuary, and both Uncle Phay and Aunt Pearl are buried on the grounds of The-Church-By-The-Sea. 

...H. Bruce Downey, September, 2003


Remembering Dr. Edward Phay Downey...by the only daughter of Robert Whitehead Sr. and Alma Whitehead---Marilyn Whitehead Blew 

He was always one of my favorites.  My middle name is Phay, named for him, of course.  His daughter Dorothy, who was born several months later, is also Dorothy Phay.  The last few years of his life he and Pearl moved to Orlando and Bob and Phyllis would have them over for dinner often..and always when we were there visiting.  He was outstanding and he not only started that well known Ft Lauderdale Church by the Sea but four other Presbyterian Churches in Ft. Lauderdale as well.

I loved visiting the Downey's when they lived in Bowling Green,KY, later Ravenswood (a neighborhood in Chicago) and eventually Grand Rapids, MI.  We would spend a couple of weeks in the summer staying in a lovely old clapboard house that Phay would rent at South Haven, still a wonderful resort on Lake Michigan.  This was in the 40's before they moved to Florida.  Phay was always so grateful to my parents for taking him in as a teen ager and later helping him go to college.  He always told me he would never forget what they had done for him and he loved them both but he adored my Mother.  She was so special.  I also remember the big house they had on a beautiful tree shaded street in Grand Rapids.  I still recall hearing the clip clop of the horse drawn cart of the milkman, early in the morning.  I also remember when he was at the University of Edinburgh getting an advanced degree.   He wrote us fascinating letters and sent us some beautiful tartan plaids that my mother would promptly sew into lovely clothes for me.
About Cecil Rhodes..I have always heard he was a relative, but Cecil, in spite of the Rhodes Scholarships he left as his legacy at Oxford, was not a very nice man.  In fact he was a tyrant.  Maybe William Wilson inherited some of that blood line!
...Marilyn Whitehead Blew, September, 2003 

Uncle Edward Phay Downey ( 1902 - 1988 )---oldest son of Michael Edward Downey and then Ellen Whitehead Downey, brother of Eugene H. Downey (1904), E. Gerald Downey (1906 ?), Ervin Downey (1910 ?) and half-brother of twins, Robert Butler Black and William Wilson Black (1920), husband of Pearl ____________ Downey (married in yyyy), and father of identical twins Earl Downey (xxxx-yyyyy) and Bill Downey (xxxx-yyyy), Dorothy Downey Hollinsworth (xxxx-      ), and Jean Downey Ireland (xxxx-       ).