Wang Laboratories executive and Greater Lowell business owner, Michael P. Downes died peacefully at Lowell General Hospital on October 13, 2023 after a valiant three-month fight with cancer. A Lowell native with strong family and community ties, he most recently lived in Bluffton, SC.
Michael was an amazing man, husband, father, brother, uncle, grandfather, boss, coach, leader, friend, (and roadie) who will be forever missed by many. After retiring to South Carolina in 2018, he returned to Lowell with his wife Chandra L. Parry, at the end of September to spend his final days with family and friends back home.
“Mike” was born in Lowell, Massachusetts on March 25, 1946. He was the son of the late Lowell Mayor Joseph M. Downes and Frances Anna (Daudelin) Downes. He grew up in the Centralville, Acre and Belvidere sections of Lowell, graduating from Lowell High School in 1963. Mike earned his Associates Degree from Chamberlayne Junior College in Boston, his Bachelor of Science degree from Northeastern University (1972) and his MBA from Rivier College (1977).
Mike had a lifelong commitment of giving back to the community, starting at the young age of 17 when he became the coach of the Braves Lowell Little League team. He went on to coach youth basketball and youth soccer for many years and was on the Board of Directors for the Merrimack Valley Repertory Theater as well as the Nesmith House and involved with the Greater Lowell and Merrimack Valley Chambers of Commerce.
Mike joined Wang Laboratories in 1969 as a Production Planner and over a twenty-four year span, rose to the role of Senior Vice President of World-Wide Manufacturing. He was the highest ranked native Lowellian employed by the Lowell based international company. Mike’s leadership skills, affable personality and down to earth sensibility gained him the respect and affection of all those with whom he worked. For Mike’s entire working career, Wang was not just his true passion, but his family. In 1993, following Wang’s transition from a manufacturing to a service company, Mike founded TriStar Technologies in Methuen, MA, saving the jobs of 57 local Wang employees. In 1996, Michael received the Massachusetts Small Business Person of the Year Award.
Prior to his retirement in 2013, Mike worked with several manufacturing companies. His last seven years of his working life were as a Radar Field Engineer Site Manager with Raytheon managing logistics and supply chain for radar systems.
A lifelong traveler and always ready for an adventure, Mike lived in three foreign countries (Ireland, Scotland and Turkey) and worked and visited more than 30 countries across the world.
Michael was a devoted husband to the late Donna M. (Dunfey) Downes and they raised their three sons in Lowell and Milford, NH. Together they created a life that was centered around family, love, laughter, education, music and travel, as well as the simple things like family dinners, barbecues, and attending his sons’ school and sporting events. For Mike, Donna and their boys, the 7 months spent living in Ireland in 1983 was a treasured highlight of their family life. Mike was an avid sports fan, particularly of boxing back in its heyday. He played racquetball throughout his adult years and he was a tenacious competitor on the court. Mike loved his family and enjoyed 35 years of marriage with Donna whom he loved and cared for to her death in 2005.
When Mike met Chandra in 2006, they both found the loving person each needed to embrace the future together. They shared their lives for 17 years splitting much of that time between Lowell and Grantham, NH. They married in 2016 and moved to Bluffton, SC in 2018 where they had many good friends. Mike took pleasure in year-round golfing and especially enjoyed being a roadie/groupie for his good friend, singer-songwriter, Chris Paul.
Mike loved and was loved by Chandra’s family and especially enjoyed visiting his brother-in-law, Gary and family in Montana. Mike and Chandra had several trips to Europe together, most recently to Switzerland when Mike’s first grandson Kian, was born to his son Matthew and wife Kimberley. In September 2023, the Downes family gathered for a reunion in Bluffton, SC when Michael met his newborn grandson, Jesse.
Family and friends remember Mike for his humor, laughter, kindness, generosity, love of dancing and great story telling. Mike was a genuine people person. He was the life of the party and the perpetual grill master, always taking command of the barbecue grill at family gatherings or get-togethers. His annual Ribfests were well known and cherished along the east coast, from Sun City, SC to New Hampshire and many points in between.
Besides his wife, Chandra, Mike is survived by his three sons, Michael P. Downes Jr. of Lowell, Matthew and Kimberley (Evans) Downes of Ollon, Switzerland, and Nicholas Downes and Anita Burns of Mount Pleasant, SC; grandsons Kian and Jesse Downes of Ollon, Switzerland; stepchildren Joshua Gustafson of Quincy, MA, and Elizabeth Semon of North Andover, MA; step-grandson Gabriel Ferraris, step- granddaughters Laila, Eve, and Felicity Gustafson; brother Dr. Joseph M. Downes Jr. of Lowell; sister Frances and Robert Moore of Tewksbury, MA; brothers-in-law, Michael and Alice Dunfey of Manchester, NH, John Gisiger of San Diego, CA; former sister-in-law, Karen (Shattuck) Downes of Lowell; Gary and Nola Parry of Colstrip, MT; sisters-in-law, Dr. Gail Dunfey of Portsmouth, NH; Mary and John Wisman of Belgrade, MT; and Cheryl DiSalvatore of Great Falls, MT; 18 nieces and nephews; many cousins, great-nieces/nephews; five Godchildren, many wonderful lifelong friends, former employees, and new SC neighbors; and we can’t forget his two canine “kids” Shayla & Finley.
In addition to his late parents, Mike was predeceased by his wife, Donna M. (Dunfey) Downes; sister-in-law, Imelda (O’Connor) Downes; brother-in-law, Paul Dunfey, Jr., and sister-in-law Kathee (Dunfey) Gisiger.
Relatives and friends are invited to attend Michael’s visitation on Saturday, October 21, 2023 from 9:00am until 12:00pm at the MCKENNA-OUELLETTE FUNERAL HOME, 327 Hildreth Street, Lowell followed by interment at St. Mary Cemetery in Tewksbury and a celebration of life at The Tavern at Lenzi’s, 810 Merrimack Ave. in Dracut at 12:30pm. All are welcome to participate, and dress is business casual (no need for jackets & ties). In lieu of flowers, donations can made to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Shriner’s Children’s Hospital Foundation, and/or the Tunnel to Towers Foundation.