Loretta Bell Downey


The Lord called Loretta Bell Downey to her Heavenly reward, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019. She was born in Middle Branch, Neb., to Frederick Van Kleek and Altie Grimm-Van Kleek, Dec. 3, 1922, and she passed away at the age of 97, with the calm assurance that she would be with Jesus for Christmas and for all eternity.

Loretta was the 10th of 12 children and in addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by eight sisters and two brothers. She is survived by one sister, Isadora.

Loretta moved with her family to Lewis County, Wash., in 1937, during the dust bowl and the Great Depression. They then moved to Chehalis in 1939, where Loretta graduated from the old Chehalis High School in 1943. Since workers were needed in the shipyards during World War II, she moved to Vancouver later that year to work in the Kaiser shipyard as a welder’s helper. That is where she lost the tip of her middle finger on her left hand. During the war, women workers at the shipyard were referred to as “Rosie the Riveter,” and Loretta was honored as the December “Rosie the Riveter” in a 2014 calendar.

A bout with appendicitis ended Loretta’s career at the shipyard and after her recovery from surgery, she rented an apartment on Chehalis Avenue. She attended the Apostolic Faith Church, where she became acquainted with part of the Downey family. One day while walking in downtown Chehalis, she ran across Hayden Downey, who she knew was part of the Downey family. They began talking and he asked her out to dinner. They continued dating and were married July 22, 1945, which was her parents’ forty-second wedding anniversary. Loretta had never learned to drive, so Hayden taught her how to drive. She said he was a patient teacher.

Hayden and Loretta were not saved when they got married, but one night in February of 1949, when Bill was just a toddler, she told Hayden she wanted to go to church. The following Tuesday night, they went to the Apostolic Faith Church and after the service, they knelt together and gave their hearts to Jesus. From that time on, being in church and involved in the Lord’s service became the center of their lives.

Hayden and Loretta raised their three boys on 11th Street in Chehalis. One thing she enjoyed doing with her boys was tending a garden in the back of their house. Loretta said in her autobiography that she started turning white-headed when she was only 30 years old. Maybe it was from having three lively boys! (She didn’t say that).

Loretta was mostly a stay-at-home mom, but when Hayden purchased a service station in 1960, she did the bookkeeping. She continued to work at the business for 20 years, where she saw the transition from a service station to a Subaru dealership. As a Subaru dealer, Hayden earned a trip to Tahiti, where he and Loretta were able to see part of the world. After a short illness, Hayden passed away April 10, 1981, a month after his 60th birthday. Loretta said the bottom dropped out of her world, but with her family’s help she was able to continue on and live a fulfilling life.

Loretta enjoyed spoiling her grandchildren at every opportunity, including taking them on camping trips at her sister’s farm in Adna. She was always eager to attend their school events, 4-H events or any other events they were involved in.

In addition to spending time with her family, Loretta enjoyed traveling with her Van Kleek siblings. They took many RV trips together throughout the United States and Canada. Annual family reunions were very important to Loretta and her family. Although she was not able to attend the past few years, the 51st reunion was held this past summer, with over 30 people attending.

In addition to her sister, Loretta is survived by her three sons, Bill and his wife, Rhonda, Bob and his wife, Cheryl and Ben; nine grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.

The family would like to extend their sincere appreciation to Brenda and the staff at Brenda’s Elder Care for the kind and loving care they provided to Loretta over the past few years and also to the Hospice team who made her final days more comfortable. Memorial donations may be made to the Apostolic Faith Church Foreign Missions.

Memorial service will be held at 1 p.m., Jan. 4, 2020, at Apostolic Faith Church, 196 NW Cascade Ave, Chehalis, WA 98532.

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