Charles Henry “Butch” Downs, 69, of West Tisbury died peacefully Saturday, October 19, at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital after a brief illness. He was the husband of Carolyn Downs and father of Andrew Downs.
Butch was a Martha’s Vineyard native, born in Oak Bluffs and raised in Edgartown. He dedicated his life to being a pilot, having been taught to fly at the age of 13 by Steve Gentle at the Katama Airport. At 16 he enlisted in the Air Force and served two tours of duty as a Ranch-Hand in the Vietnam War. He is an honored veteran, whose plane, Patches, currently sits in the Smithsonian, having been the second most shot at plane in fighting action of the war.
The love of flying stayed with him after his service. He had a long and varied flying career that led him around the world and culminated in nearly two decades as a pilot for Edgartown Air, which later became Cape Air. He often told his son that his favorite thing about flying was watching the sun rise and set from thousands of feet above the earth.
Butch was also integral in many aspects of the Island. He worked as an AB for the Steamship Authority, had a (very brief) career as Duke’s County Deputy Sheriff, was past commander of the VFW, and was a pioneer in swordfish spotting. His fishing buddies always appreciated his expert eye in the sky — from his Piper Cub.
Butch also played the guitar and banjo, and loved the natural beauty and history of the Island. He has amassed a vast collection of found native artifacts including his prized Woolly Mammoth’s tooth.
Butch was a rare, true husband, father, son, brother and friend. He wouldn’t hesitate to give you a piece of his mind, but he would also be the first person to give you the shirt off his back.
Butch is survived by his loving family. October 28 would have been his 31st wedding anniversary with his wife Carolyn. He was a caring father to his son, Captain Andy Downs, and his daughter-in-law, Valerie. He rarely missed an evening without speaking on the phone with his son. He was also a loving, loyal, and devoted ‘big’ brother to John Downs and his wife, Kathleen, as well as a proud uncle and great-uncle.
Visiting hours in the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home, Edgartown Road, Oak Bluffs will be on Tuesday, October 22, from 5 to 8 pm.
His graveside service will be held on Wednesday, October 23, at 11 am in the New Westside Cemetery officiated by Rev. Michael Nagle, with military honors provided by the Veterans of MV. Following the service family and friends are invited to the VFW in Oak Bluffs.
Donations may be made in his memory to the Animal Shelter, PO Box 1829, Edgartown, MA 02539.