The Downard Sisters

Athens Cemetery 07-30-2-13I spent a most enjoyable day playing historic sleuth and running all over southern Ohio with Curator Jessica looking for (and finding) something I’ll write about when I don’t have white-line fever. I got a late start (what’s new?) and only made it just west of Covington, Ky.

I’ll tease you a bit with a quote: “I knew my grandfather about as well as any of his grandkids: I knew where he hid his whiskey.” When somebody tells you that over the phone, you HAVE to track him down.

One side trip was to the Athens Cemetery on West Union Street. Jessica challenged one of my ancient photos as not having been taken there. I, of course, had to prove I was right.

Erin and Jamie

Athens Cemetery 07-30-2-13

While there, she took me to one of her favorite grave markers: one for two sisters, Erin Michelle and Jamie Leigh Downard. Erin was born in 1982 and died in April 1989. Her sister was born in 1984 and died in January 1989.

How did they die?

Athens Cemetery 07-30-2-13You have to wonder why two young sisters would be taken so close to each other. Was it a car accident? An illness? I guess that’s another one of those things I’ll have to look up the next time I get to Athens.

A sense of whimsy

Athens Cemetery 07-29-2013_5122

This marker is unique, but not as heart-rending as the Downard sculpture. I’d love to hear the story behind the license tag etched on Kay Anne Blackburn’s stone.

25 Replies to “The Downard Sisters”

  1. Ken, I didn’t know you were going to be so close to Cincinnati. I live just about 30 minutes north of Covington, KY. Next time you are this close and have an hour or so, let me know and my husband and I will meet you for a meal or something.

    Spring Grove Cemetery also has some very interesting grave markers. There is one of a little girl holding an umbrella. It is not in as good condition as the sisters, but it is very old. There are many others as well.

    Have a good trip. I love to read about your travels.

  2. One of my favorite parts of the trip to Mo. with Ken this winter was visiting the Civil War section of the graveyard (we hit several cemeteries) down around Dutchtown. I have several shots of gravestones there with elaborate stories on them that intrigue me. The other cemetery I liked was enormous – and on steep hills, somewhere in Ohio, I think. I can’t recall the name of the little town – they were all little. I shot stuff from the car window, but we didn’t walk much among those graves.

  3. I love your blogs. I was wanting to hear more about the sister then the story was over.. So sad.. But I did like the Altenburg shots with the moon and that..

  4. very tragic that two young sisters died so close together, I would like to follow his story and you gather more insight.

        1. why didn`t they die at the same age, I wonder.
          the parents had to have loved them to have commissioned such a lovely statue.

          1. Oh dear, we all love our children that pass before us. Regardless of the size of the memorial that is placed. I speak for myself and others.

  5. Ken, you should learn the story of these two girls. I worked for their family when the girls were still living. They were very loved and well taken care of. From what I understand, it was a genetic condition from the pairing of the two parents and is very rare. They are a wonderful loving family. They own Downard’s Ambassador Laundry in Athens. They are also very private. I know that the girls were wheelchair bound from a very young age and I heard that their parents wanted to make the memorial in their likeness so that they would be standing. I can not do their story justice but it is a beautiful memorial.

    1. Shirley.

      The last time I was in Athens, Curator Jessica and I tracked down the girls’ father at the laundry to ask if he would mind telling us the story behind the grave marker.

      Your version is essentially correct. One daughter had the genetic condition and the family had to watch her gradually deteriorate until she died. That’s when they discovered that her sister had it, also, and they knew they would have to go through it again.

      It was tough for the father to talk about, and it was also very hard to hear him describe it. I just couldn’t bring myself to write the story.

      That’s one of the nice things about being retired: you get to pick and choose. I have three grandsons. I pictured them in Mr. Downard’s situation and couldn’t peck the keys.

      1. I would like to learn more about this. My maiden name is Downard. I have a great nephew who was born with a very rare condition where his brain stem did not fully develop. Both his parents (my niece and her husband ) have a genetic marker that was passed to their son. I wonder if there is a relation

    2. Thank you for filling in the missing pieces. How beautiful that the girls are standing in this memorial. It wrenched my heart to see the statues of two so young to begin with, and then to hear their story left me in tears. My heart aches for their parents. Two such devastating losses is more than a mere mortal’s heart is designed to handle. It is so gracious that they shared their story. God bless their whole family.

    3. I would be interested in knowing if the rare genetic condition caused by the pairing of the two parents is Joubert Syndrome? I am a Downard (maiden name) and my niece has a son born with Joubert syndrome. It is an autosomal recessive genetic disorder that affects the area of the brain that controls balance and coordination. The child inherits the same abnormal gene from both parents. If the child only inherits an abnormal gene from one parent, that child will be a “carrier” but will have no symptoms of Jouberts. The prevalence of Jouberts is 1 in 258,000. The. Most common features are lack of muscle control, abnormal breathing patterns and low muscle tone. (An MRI will show the area of the brain…the cerebellum….that is affected with a “molar tooth” sign) The spectrum of symptoms are broad. Some are subtle and some are severe. These children are always developmentally delayed and many do not walk or talk. The syndrome affects organs (especially the Liver and
      kidneys ). They often times succumb from the organ failure or breathing issues. My nephew, now 4, is walking and just starting to talk . There has been much therapy to help him. Joubert syndrome has only been discovered since the 1960’s and is still considered very rare .

    4. Thanks for sharing what info u did share..makes u ask questions when it comes to children so sad but your right it is beautiful memorial for the girls

  6. I have a great nephew who was born with a very rare genetic disorder inherited from both parents. The genetic disorder is called Joubert syndrome and was discovered in the late 1960’s. If one parent has the gene the child is a carrier but not affected. If both parents have the gene there is a 1 in 4 chance the child will get a gene from the mother and the father. If this happens, as in the case of my nephew, the child will get the disorder. The brain stem does not develop fully and while there is lots of research ongoing, many of these children never walk, they have breathing issues, organ issues and low muscle tone as the brain stem regulates those functions. Many pass away so very young. My maiden name is Downard and I can’t help but wonder if I am related to this family. I would love to speak with the family if possible. Can you help me? ~ 740-503-0071

  7. Thankyou for sharing all this information so tragic but a beautiful warm story that has brought tears to my eyes God bless

  8. Totally adored the beautiful comments concerning the meanin8life of the Downnard Sister’s. They definitely will see Paradise without the horrible disease ❤️

  9. Please excuse the Mistake in spelling Meaningful in the above caption regarding the Downard Sister’s.

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