In Memoriam— Remembering Jim Downey

This year’s OC Fair Home Wine Competition was a bit sadder and harder to organize without one of our longtime members, Jim Downey, who passed away in mid-May after a short battle with cancer.

Jim was a fixture in the Winemakers’ Group and is best remembered for organizing the Home Wine Competition volunteers. He was a “take charge and get it done” kind of guy. When we needed Competition volunteers he’d say, “Tell me what you need and I’ll get it done for you.”  Besides getting them, he himself was the consummate volunteer. He always worked the hardest, was one of the last to stay, and never complained about it.

I worked with him for many years helping to run that competition. He was well organized and very disciplined. He was also very firm and direct with someone when he wanted to make a point. One year I was Director of Judges and was short a few judges as the competition neared. I asked Jim for phone numbers of some stewards who had judging experience. He let me know in no uncertain terms that he did not want me stealing his stewards.

Jim and his wife, Linda, joined the OCWS in 2011. Besides being involved with the Winemakers’ Group, Jim enjoyed working the Express Bar at The Courtyard during the OC Fair. He stewarded at the Commercial Wine Competition. He was a regular at the Wine Auction and you could always find him behind a big crock pot serving his chili at the Chili Cook-off.

Jim and Linda enjoyed travel and brought back stories from their worldwide adventures. Jim especially liked Japan. Regular family visits to Northern California always included wine tasting side trips, particularly to Macchia.

Jim was very generous. He made a most delicious German potato dish or a crockpot of bratwurst sausages for potluck gatherings. He was also an excellent winemaker, reds and whites. One he was most proud of was a Riesling made from a kit.

I think the situation that most exemplified Jim happened while preparing for a Home Wine Competition. Jim was directing volunteers as if giving orders and Rob Romano made the comment, “that’s right, you used to be a Marine.” Jim whirled around, stood at attention, looked Rob in the eye and replied, “NO, you are ALWAYS a Marine.”

Recollections by Ed Reyes, with contributions from
Wendy Taylor, Rob Romano and David Rutledge