Charles Downey Obituary

Charles Stanley Downey
Charles Stanley Downey

August 2, 1924 - February 19, 2016
Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut
Resided in DeLand, FL



We have chosen Flag Day weekend to honor and pay tribute to Chuck. His passion for the American flag was demonstrated each year when he officiated the flag day ceremony at Vintage Wings and Wheels Museum near his home in Poplar Grove, Illinois. He supported this museum with heart and soul and we thought it an appropriate venue to gather with friends and family to say our farewell.

The Downey Family is grateful to share this day with you.

Celebratation of Life will commence at 12:00
on Saturday June 11

Orien Samuelson, Chicago Radio Personality will preside


-- Vintage Wings and Wheels Annual Flag Day Ceremony
-- Missing Man Flyover ~ Poplar Grove Pilots
-- Presentation of Scholarships
-- Gathering for food and drink
-- Tributes and sharing stories
-- Videos
-- Military Honors
-- Missing Man Flyover ~ Meyers OTW Pilots

Completion of formal portion 3:00

Following the ceremony, please join us for happy hour and the screening of "Heroes on Deck: World War II on Lake Michigan". This WTTW documentary is to be released on Memorial Day on PBS. It tells the story of the Navy's WWII carrier pilot training off the shoreline of Lake Michigan. You will witness interviews with Chuck Downey and Grant Young and recovery footage of planes resting on the bottom of Lake Michigan.

We know that Chuck would be happy that we are ending the day sharing Navy history and raising a glass in his honor.

Questions may be directed to:
Elaine Steinbeck

Scroll down for address and map


Former Poplar Gove Illinois resident Charles ("Chuck" aka "Captain") made his final departure on February 19, 2016 from DeLand, FL. He died peacefully after a brief illness.

Born in Bridgeport, CT on Aug. 2, 1924, Chuck graduated from high school in 1942, enlisted in the Navy, earned his carrier qualification on the Wolverine in Lake Michigan, and served as a dive-bomber pilot on the Ticonderoga and the Hancock.

Chuck was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal for his WWII actions. The youngest Naval aviator in WWII, he received his wings 17 days before his 19th birthday.

President George H.W. Bush who had previously claimed this honor, gracefully acknowledged this distinction and met with Chuck in 2014 to share experiences.

After WWII, Chuck remained in the Naval Reserve, becoming the youngest man promoted to the rank of Captain, and retiring in 1975. In February 2016, he received the Naval Order Lifetime Achievement Award for his many years of inspiring leadership and dedication.

Chuck graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, then worked for American Airlines for sixteen years. While Director of Facilities for American, he helped design the airline's flight academy at Fort Worth. In Chicago, he was vice president of Commuter Airlines, worked for and helped start Midway Airlines, and worked for Butler Aviation.

He married Lorna Kunz on Aug. 25, 1951. Together they raised five children and had many adventures flying in Chuck's antique Meyers OTW biplane.

After Lorna's death in 1997, Chuck moved to Poplar Grove where he continued to be an active contributor to the naval and antique aviation communities, mentoring and guiding many young people along the way. During his lifetime, he flew over forty different types of planes. He continued to fly his biplane until the age of 89. He began spending winters in Deland, Florida, in 2008, permanently relocating there in October, 2015.

Chuck was preceded in death by his parents Charles and Irene Downey, his brother Joe, his sister Pat, and the love of his life, Lorna.

He is survived by his children Christine (Mike) Sandusky, Karen (Dick) Lunceford, Elaine Steinbeck, Martha Foster, and Charles (Sheila) Downey, ten grandchildren, one great-granddaughter, and another great-grandchild on the way. He is also survived by many friends and fellow aviators.

The family wishes to thank the caring staff at the Halifax Health-Hospice of Volusia County, as well as Kim who cared for Chuck in his last few weeks.

Celebration of life, Saturday June, 11, 2016, 12noon-3pm Vintage Wings & Wheels Museum, 5151 Orth Rd, Poplar Grove, IL 61065, (815)547-3115.

Arrangements by Cremation Society of Illinois, 773-281-5058 or

To plant a tree in memory of Charles Downey, please visit our Tribute Store.




Vintage Wings & Wheels Museum
5151 Orth Avenue
Poplar Grove, IL USA 61065
Saturday, June 11, 2016
12:00 PM - 3:00 PM