Jay R. Downen was born on October 14, 1941 in Gault Mo, in Grundy County, MO. J.R.’s parents Harry and Lela (Smith) worked in Chicago, Hannibal, and Wichita to buy Green Castle Farm where J.R. and his sister Phyllis enjoyed growing up.
J.R.’s life was influenced greatly by his Great-Grandma Taylor who prayed for her family and Mrs. Yardley, his teacher in the one room country school prayed and read the Bible toher students. In 1952 Maud Kahl and Mamie Alvine came to Green Castle and due to their influence J.R.’s mother was saved. His mother would read Egermeier’s Bible Stories to them while Harry was working at General Motors in Kansas City.
Brother D.P. Foster took the family to church in Kansas City until J.R. started driving in 1957. During this time Winfield Poe came and preached a revival that saw J.R. and his sister Phyllis saved on November 3, 1953. After being saved J.R. wanted to become a Missionary and he often witnessed to those around him including giving tracts to his English teacher. J.R. prayed the rest of the year to be able to go to Bible school.
J.R. and Phyllis attended Gravette Bible School for J.R.’s 8th grade year. For his 9th and 10th grade year he attended Kirksville Bible College. He attended Kansas City College and Bible School from 1957-1965. While there Dr Cowen became a true friend. Sister Kristee and Brother James would help him get jobs. At one time while in Kansas City he ran out of gas on Rainbow Boulveard and coasted into a Phillips 66 Station to get $0.18 worth of gas to get him to class.
From 1965-1966 J.R. attended Kirksville State Teachers College and pastored a church. On March 1, 1964 J.R. married Mary Elizabeth Hoover, who also had aspirations to be a missionary. To this union two children were born, Twila and Roger. They would move to the Brainerd Indian School in Black Hills, South Dakota. They later moved to the Cheyenne Indian Reservation. In 1969 J.R. worked at Lame Deer trading post where he cut hair, worked part-time in a saw mill and contracted a trash route. Later J.R. would pastor an Indian church while Mary played the piano, sung, and taught VBS. The moved close to the Salt River Indian Reservation in Arizona where Daughter Twila was saved on her 6th birthday. While in Arizona J.R. wore many hats that included; Sunday School teacher, cleaned water coolers, roofing the church, and fixing cars. In order to make a living he working in a machine shop, which was a job he loved, and was a school janitor. He also taught Occupational Education at Carl Hayden School, he also had a job as an air compressor salesman, and worked as an auto mechanic.
After moving to Douglas County, Missouri the Mt. Zion Bible School became his address and the students became his family until God called him home on September 30, 2020.
J.R. was preceded in death by his parents, daughter Twila, and sister Madine.
He is survived by his son Roger; sisters Mary and Phyllis, as well as two brothers Larry and Alvin. Students, staff, and alumni at Mt Zion Bible School will deeply miss him. During his lifetime he influenced an untold number of people in personal and spiritual ways.
JR said “I am ready to go to Heaven, Twila Fae will be waiting to show me round heaven, after I have hugged Jesus!!”