TRIBUTE: Former Grafton High teacher Ian Downs.
TRIBUTE: Former Grafton High teacher Ian Downs.

Voice of Jacaranda silenced

THE MAN who became synonymous with the Jacaranda Queen Crowning and The Daily Examiner Sports Star of the Year for two decades has died at the age of 75.

The funeral for Ian Downs, who died earlier this month after a four year battle with cancer, was held in The King's School Chapel in Parramatta, Sydney, on Friday.

Mr Downs came to Grafton in early 1973 and became intimately involved with the Grafton community in the ensuing 17 years.

His daughter, Catherine Sanchez, said Mr Downs loved living in Grafton and stayed here even after he changed jobs to work in Kempsey.

"He worked in Kempsey from 1983 to 1985 and would drive to Kempsey every Sunday night, returning home each Friday afternoon," Mrs Sanchez said.

"Dad returned to Grafton in 1986 to take up a role as an Inspector of Schools, later moving to Glen Innes in 1989 as a Cluster Director of Schools."

She said Mr Downs loved his involvement with the Grafton community, particularly the Jacaranda Festival and Sports Star of the Year presentations.

"Dad loved the role of interviewing the candidates," she said. "It was something he was passionate about.

"He was interested in anyone who had a story and interviewing those people gave him a chance to discover their life story."

Mr Downs was also heavily involved with church life at Grafton's Christ Church Cathedral as well as sitting on the hospital board.

"He also had a job as an announcer on the local ABC radio," Mrs Sanchez said. "There wouldn't have been too many people at the time, who hadn't worked with, socialised with or met dad."

In his glittering education career Mr Downs had many roles.

Mrs Sanchez said these included being Director of Boarding at The King's School and Principals at New England Girls' School in Armidale and Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School in Tamworth.

She said he had a special attachment to The King's School Chapel, where his funeral service was held.

"Dad married his second wife, Shirley, there in 2003 and both of my children, Harrison and Nicolas, were christened there. He had a real sentimental attachment to the place," Mrs Sanchez said.



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