Chuck Downey
By Bob Ryder
Veterans Assistant Commission of Boone County Superintendent
POPLAR GROVE – Chuck Downey, well known former Poplar Grove resident and the youngest Naval Aviator of World War II, passed away recently at the age of 91. He died peacefully after a brief illness at his winter home in DeLand, Fla. on Feb. 19.
Downey had many friends in the area, especially at the Poplar Grove Airport where he continued to fly vintage airplanes he had restored until the age of 89.
During World War II, he flew dive bombers off aircraft carriers, fought Japanese forces in the Pacific and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal for his WWII actions.
Downey was the youngest Naval Aviator of World War II, receiving his wings 17 days before his 19th birthday.
For many years, former President George H. W. Bush had claimed that honor, but gracefully acknowledged that Downey was younger and met with him to share their war experiences. Downey was also the youngest Naval Aviator promoted to the rank of Captain.
Chuck Downey 2Downey married the love of his life Lorna Kunz on Aug. 25, 1951, and together they raised five children and shared many adventures flying in Downey’s antique Meyers OTW biplane.
After Lorna’s death in 1997, Downey moved to Poplar Grove where he continued to be active in the Naval and antique aviation communities, mentoring and guiding many young people along the way.
During his lifetime, he flew over forty different types of planes. He began spending winters in Deland, Fla., in 2008, and permanently relocated there in November 2015.
Downey was preceded in death by his parents Charles and Irene Downey, his brother Joe, his sister Pat, and his wife, Lorna.
He is survived by his children Christine (Mike) Sandusky, Karen (Dick) Lunceford, Elaine Steinbeck, Martha Foster, and Charles (Sheila) Downey, ten grandchildren, one great-granddaughter, and another great-grandchild on the way. He is also survived by many friends and fellow aviators.
A memorial service is being planned and is tentatively scheduled for June 11 at the Poplar Grove Airport.

Chuck Downey 3

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