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Samuel Downing

December 17, 1944 ~ March 22, 2018 (age 73)

Sam Downing, beloved husband, father, grandfather, and friend, passed away on Thursday, March 22nd.  After 73 remarkable years, he was tragically taken from us as a result of a severe medication interaction, known as serotonin syndrome.    

Happiest in the company of his beautiful family, Sam especially loved to swim or spend time at the beach with his five grandchildren.  He was magnetic, a fiercely loyal family man with a deeply caring spirit who radiated kindness and warmth.  A born leader as well as a born helper, Sam relentlessly advocated for those in need and for his community. 

Sam and his fraternal twin brother, William ‘Bill’ Downing, were born in Glendale, CA on December 17th 1944 to parents, Samuel and Betty Downing.  When the boys were 9, Samuel and Betty decided to move their family (the twins and their sisters, Marylu and Diane) to Newport Beach, CA.  It was in their new hometown where Sam’s father kindled in him a lifelong love of the ocean.  Surfing, sailing and swimming quickly became avid pursuits.  As a builder himself, Sam’s father also sparked both son’s passion for building and construction.  The move to Newport Beach also brought Sam into contact with Carl Marscellas, who became his lifelong friend and confidant. 

In 1963 Sam graduated from Newport Harbor High School and went on to attend Orange Coast College where he was elected Student Body President.  He was both an oarsman and assistant coach for the OCC rowing team from 1964 to 1965. 

He was a charter student at UC Irvine from 1965-1967 where he earned his BA in Economics.  After completing a MBA at CSU Long Beach in 1969, he attended UCLA where he earned his Masters in Public Health in 1971. 

Tragedy struck Sam to the core when his twin brother, age 19, was killed in an automobile accident during a trip to Mexico.  This disturbing loss coupled with encouragement Sam received from his cousin, Gene Geil, propelled Sam into a life dedicated to saving and caring for others through a career in public health. 

From 1972 until his retirement in 2011, Sam worked at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, serving as President and CEO from 1985 onward.  Though he’d been offered a prestigious opportunity in Santa Barbara, he chose instead a small rural hospital in Salinas, where he recognized tremendous potential.  Sam’s 39+ years of dedication, vision and stewardship helped to shape Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital into the renowned full-service healthcare system it is today. 

Sam married the love of his life Paula Duke in Corral de Tierra on May 28th, 1977.  The newlyweds honeymooned in Europe and embarked on a lifetime of adventure together.  Combining their love of travel and humanitarianism, Sam and Paula traveled on numerous trips around the world with Assist International to provide donated medical equipment, training and supplies to people in need.  Included in the many recipients of Sam’s philanthropic spirit were communities in Guatemala, Cuba, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Mongolia, Romania, Hungary, Vietnam and China.  Sam loved Hawaii to relax, surf, swim and enjoy time with family. 

With Sam's playful sense of humor and ocean-sized heart, Sam was the person everyone in the family looked to for guidance.  He will be missed more than words can express by those he leaves behind.  In addition to his beloved wife Paula, he is survived by his three children, Michael Downing (Lenore), Zachary Downing (Ashley) and Brittany Schicketanz (VIctor) and his five grandchildren, Tanner, Nate, Riley Jewel, Koa, and Kai who called him 'Pa' and his sisters, Diane Matthews and Marylu Downing.    

The family will hold a PRIVATE service on May 5th followed by a 1:00 P.M. Celebration of Life at Carmel Beach for family and friends on Sunday, May 6th.  In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory can be made to the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health Student Fellowship Fund or UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center as well as Assist International, Scotts Valley, CA.  Please remember Sam by his big warm smile, his hearty laugh, and the immeasurable love he left behind.


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