Obituary for Fr. Arley Downie (1931-2020)


Fr. Arley T. Downie, 88, of Fulton, Ill. and formerly of Farmington, New Mexico died Sunday August 2, 2020 at Generations Skilled Care in Rock Island, Illinois.

Arley was born on the Family Farm in Hooppole, Illinois on December 24th, 1931 to Thomas G. Downie and Helen E. (Shere) Downie. He was educated in his early years in Merrill, Wisconsin they then moved to Sterling, Illinois where he attended St. Mary’s and graduated from Community High School. This is where he met the love of his life, Valda G. Nailor. They were married on August 7th 1951. He started his first career on November, 24th 1951 when he enlisted in the US Air Force where he worked in electronics communications. During this time he was stationed all over, including England, France and Japan. He excelled in his military career, retiring as a SMSgt in 1974 after serving 23 years. He then moved back to Sterling and in 1978 when Val died he made another major life decision to answer his life’s calling. He enrolled at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology in Hales Corner, Wisconsin and on March 12th 1988 he was ordained at St Mary’s in Sterling and began 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 37 years he committed his life to spreading the word of the Lord, converting and doing missionary work on the reservations of New Mexico and Arizona working with the Navajo, Apache, Zuni and Hopi Indians. He moved to Farmington, New Mexico and stayed there till he retired. He loved New Mexico and his work there and had touched many lives and made such 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 come up every summer and fill in at Immaculate Conception where he was a member. He was probably best known as the priest who started and officiated the Annual ABATE of Iowa Dist. 21 Bike Blessing in downtown Fulton which he has done faithfully for 30 years. In that time he blessed thousands of motorcycles and their Riders, each individually. He was so very proud and loved this special event. He was an exceptionally unique, giving and caring man who had a great sense of humor, could talk comfortably to a stranger and leave a lasting impression. His heart was huge. He was blessed with a “Special Gift” that he shared with everyone he met. He was a loving and devoted father, grandfather & enjoyed spending time with his family. He was an avid Cubs fan. He loved the outdoors and enjoyed traveling, painting, fishing, bird watching, sports and especially his rides to the Lock and Dam 13.

Survivors include 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, a brother Tom Downie, and two sisters Pat Downie and Marjorie (Downie) Webb.

Visitation will be Friday, August 21, 2020 from 11:00 A.M. – Noon at St. Mary Catholic Church in Sterling. Celebration of the Mass of Christian Burial will be at noon at the church with the Reverend James R. Keenan, Celebrant officiating. Burial with Military Honors will follow at Calvary Cemetery in Sterling. For online condolences, please visit:


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