Educator, community leader Wynanne Downer dies at 60

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Corner Broook mourns death of Wynanne Downer

City councillor Wynanne Downer, known for her leadership and willingness to fight for any cause she believed in, has lost her own battle with cancer.

Mrs. Downer, 60, died at the palliative care unit of Western Memorial Regional Hospital Sunday evening.

Born Winnifred Anne Shea in St. John's in 1947, and raised in Stephenville Crossing, she completed her undergraduate studies in English, French and history at Littledale College and Memorial University before earning her a masters degree in education from St. Francis Xavier University in 1992 and a PhD in educational administration and policy studies from the University of Toronto in 1997.

Wynanne Downer died Sunday night. Submitted Photo

City councillor Wynanne Downer, known for her leadership and willingness to fight for any cause she believed in, has lost her own battle with cancer.

Mrs. Downer, 60, died at the palliative care unit of Western Memorial Regional Hospital Sunday evening.

Born Winnifred Anne Shea in St. John's in 1947, and raised in Stephenville Crossing, she completed her undergraduate studies in English, French and history at Littledale College and Memorial University before earning her a masters degree in education from St. Francis Xavier University in 1992 and a PhD in educational administration and policy studies from the University of Toronto in 1997.

She had also completed programs in undergraduate and graduate education at the University of Ottawa; Universite de Nouveau Brunswick, New Brunswick; UniversitÉ de Quebec; University of Calgary; and Homerton College at Cambridge University in England.

Mrs. Downer had a long and award-winning career as a teacher and educational administrator, having taught French immersion for years and having also taught undergraduate and graduate courses at the university level.

She also had a strong business mind, working with her family in the hotel and restaurant business and, in recent years, had business interests in land development and water-supply systems. As part of a home-stay program, she also worked with international students and families coming to Newfoundland for cultural and educational purposes.

Mrs. Downer was an author, having published a variety of professional articles in educational journals around the world, and contributed chapters to professional books and proceedings.

She also co-wrote a number of elementary and junior high school textbooks, once wrote a weekly newspaper column on contemporary educational issues and contributed to newsletters for the Family Outreach Centre and the Humber Literacy Council.

An experienced public speaker, Mrs. Downer presented in Canada and the United States at community and professional group gatherings and at learned conferences on a vast range of topics, including literacy and educational issues which were dear to her heart.

As a community volunteer, she worked with Junior Achievement, the Humber Literacy Advisory Council, Family Resource Centres, Swimming Newfoundland and Labrador, Canadian Parents for French, Boy Scouts of Canada, the Lioness Club and community nursery schools. She was a member of Memorial University's Board of Regents, Beta Sigma Phi, was a tireless volunteer and advocate for health-care issues.

She also ran for political office at both the federal and municipal levels, successfully being elected as a city councillor in 2005, while also serving as campaign manager for current Finance Minister Tom Marshall during the 2003 provincial election.

"I first got to know her well during the nomination process for Humber East four years ago when she was campaign manager for one of my opponents," Marshall, the Tory legislature member for Humber East, said Monday. "I was so impressed that, after winning the nomination, I asked her to take on the role of my campaign manager, which she did successfully.

"She was a strong-willed and determined woman, determined to persevere. She approached her own health the same way she did everything else in life - with vigour and determination and a lot of concern for other people."

Marshall said Mrs. Downer will be remembered as playing a strong leadership role on many important fronts for Corner Brook and western Newfoundland, including advocating for the growth and advancement of Sir Wilfred Grenfell College and leading a community effort to ensure Western Memorial Regional Hospital received its much-needed MRI machine.

Despite her failing health, having been first diagnosed just months after being elected in the fall of 2003, Mrs. Downer never gave up her position on city council and did her best to keep abreast of municipal issues..

"She was determined to be a part of what was going on in Corner Brook and what was happening with council," Mayor Charles Pender told The Western Star Monday while on vacation in France. "She came to meetings and participated as much as she could. I think she is to be commended just for even getting out and trying when she was sick like that. It demonstrated the courage she had and her commitment to council and the things she believed in."

Deputy Mayor Ann Murphy said all of council, city staff and city residents express their heartfelt condolences to the Downer family.

"Since being elected to council, Wynanne always took her duties very seriously and represented the residents of the city in an outstanding manner as a community leader," said Murphy. "During her illness, Coun. Downer showed extreme fortitude and courage in continuing her duties to the community. Corner Brook has been richly blessed with having an individual like Wynanne in our midst. She is an individual who is respected and admired for her extensive contributions as an educator, community volunteer and community leader.

"Wynanne's passing will leave a big void in our community. We all feel fortunate to have known her and we have been inspired by her determination, she will be long remembered by the people of Corner Brook and sorely missed by all her numerous friends and colleagues."

Mrs. Downer is survived by her husband Don, sons Philip and Russell, daughter Adrienne and their families. Her funeral service will be at Holy Redeemer Parish at 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.

gkean@thewesternstar.com

Organizations: Littledale College and Memorial University, Homerton College, Sir Wilfred Grenfell College Western Memorial Regional Hospital St. Francis Xavier University University of Toronto Humber Literacy Advisory Council University of Ottawa University of Calgary Cambridge University Family Outreach Centre Junior Achievement Family Resource Centres Boy Scouts of Canada Lioness Club

Geographic location: Stephenville Crossing, Newfoundland, Corner Brook New Brunswick England Humber East Canada United States Western Star France

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