“You can lead a horse to water”… begins the old expression about the value of education and accepting wisdom, but the beginning of this oft repeated phrase has particular significance for the family of Nancy Knipp Downey of Edinboro – a dedicated educator -- who passed away on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019.
You see, both horses and water figure largely in her life, marked by wisdom, sincerity and devotion to family. Nancy’s high school sweetheart bought a beloved horse – named Penney – so that he and his horse, Hoss, could join on rides toward the sunset. And together, beside many sunsets, they rode off to find water - in this case, a waterfront home on Edinboro Lake, where they spent 43 years together. Her final ride culminates in a funeral service on Tuesday, February 5, 2019 at 6 p.m. at Our Lady of The Lake Catholic Church in Edinboro – just a few minutes past sunset.
Nancy’s journey started on January 20, 1951 in Indianapolis, IN, born the second daughter of James Knipp and Patricia Smith Knipp. In her early years, the family moved to Galion, OH before ultimately moving to Wright Street in Corry in her high school years.
She graduated from Corry High School in 1969 as a student athlete. In addition to her recognition as a member of the National Honor Society, she was the first woman to compete in the South Erie County Modified Softball League, and was a key member of the varsity cheerleading squad. Following high school, she enrolled at Penn State University in State College, PA, and was a staunch fan of her alma mater – even when facing off with her sister’s alma mater, Ohio State University. Nancy’s mountain of energy was on full display during these college years in “Happy Valley”, with her participation on the gymnastics team and as a sister in the Delta Gamma Sorority. In 1973, she graduated with a B.A. in Liberal Arts.
Her college degree was just the start, as Nancy attained additional degrees from Edinboro University: a B.A. in Speech and Hearing Therapy in 1984; a Master’s Degree in Special Education in 2000; and certification for school principal and school supervisor.
First, as her fiance, and then as her husband, Paul Downey, was wise enough to know that the key to a woman’s heart wasn’t diamonds after all. The sturdy mare, Penney, and an English Setter puppy, were tokens of appreciation that he and Nancy added to begin their lives together in 1975 at the Edinboro lakefront home. His plan worked so well that the couple celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary in July. Their devotion to each other and to family was evident throughout their time together, often holding hands especially through her treatment. This home on the lake became a family focal point for togetherness and activities. From jet skis to pontoon boats, from fishing to water skiing, the lure of the tranquil waters was a comfort for Nancy. Piloting her pontoon boat with beautiful music under a moonlight sky was a key part of her serenity.
Nancy exhibited a wealth of empathy and fulfilled her desire to make life better through education and service to others – especially the less fortunate. These traits were exhibited while raising her own family. She started her first professional job three weeks after her third child was born, earned many certifications, attended many conferences, and mentored a plethora of new employees to further their educations and earn valuable degrees, all while simultaneously fulfilling the demands of wife and mother. Her passion was focused on enabling learning disabled students to transition to higher levels of education. She was a 37-year veteran of the Northwest Tri County Intermediate Unit, an organization devoted to providing the tools and professionals to Pennsylvania schools. Most recently she was Supervisor of Training and Consultation within the Department of Curriculum Instruction and Assessment there. Her devotion and longevity is so well regarded by her co-workers and employers, an endowment has been established to continue her legacy.
During their 43 years together, the couple raised three children with unconditional love, daughters, Sadie and Erin and son, Nick. All provided great joy to Nancy with many children of their own.
Despite her demanding professional position and family obligations, Nancy was very well rounded in her life, and flexed her creative muscles by traveling and cooking. She was well known as a great dessert chef. Her selection of homemade pies became a special event staple – with dozens of pies available for family for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals and children’s sports banquets. She would stay up all night baking homemade ingredients to ensure the pies would be warm and fresh when served.
Likewise, travel was never a burden for Nancy – she loved it. She made the trips from Edinboro to Corry with catered meals for her father, then her mother-in-law, when their health declined. She just as readily drove to State College, Montana or Washington, D.C. to assist a daughter’s relocation or pregnancy, and made several journeys to Camp LeJeune, NC to do her patriotic duty for her U.S. Marine son. If there was a graduation or celebration anywhere in the U.S., she was there. And when family members needed a companion to face the steep cliff of disease, Nancy was there on a vigil with a helping hand. She never missed her children’s or grandchildren’s many games – especially with soccer – throughout the U.S.
In addition to her husband, Paul, survivors include their children: two daughters Mrs. Sadie Gillette and her husband, Danny of Alexandria, VA and children Sydney and Samantha; Mrs. Erin Sartori and her husband, Phil of Fairfax, VA and their children Stella, Dominic, and Maddox; and son Nick Downey and fiancé Maggie Adamski, of Edinboro and their children Chance and Scout. She is also survived by her sister, Mrs. Diana Knipp Sundermeier and her husband, Lee, of Bowling Green, Ohio and their children Kristi (Serra), and Amy (Puckett), all of Ohio; also by many nieces and nephews.
In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by paternal grandparents Bonnie and Grace Knipp, and maternal grandparents Z.M. Smith and Grace Smith; Uncle Robert, Aunts Vivian, Annie, Jean, Lula May and Francis and Uncle Glen Smith.
The family asks that personal remembrances be marked by taking part and thinking of Nancy while biking on Erie’s Presque Isle Peninsula, attending Chautauqua Institute concerts, enjoying Geneva-on-the Lake, or at any family gathering involving music, singing, laughter and dancing.
The Glunt Funeral Home and Crematory, Inc., Edinboro is in charge of funeral arrangements.
Friends are invited to attend a viewing on Tuesday, February 5th at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church, 128 Sunset Drive, Edinboro from 4 to 6 p.m. prior to a Mass of Christian Burial there at 6 p.m. with Father Dan Hoffman presiding. Fellowship will follow at the Edinboro Firehall, 125 Meadville Street, Edinboro. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to The Nancy Downey Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit Foundation, 252 Waterford Street, Edinboro, PA 16412, or the local chapter of the American Cancer Society, 2115 West 38th Street, Erie PA 16508.
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