Isaiah B. and Helen Downs celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary Saturday as their family and friends threw the two a party at Crossroads Church in Hinesville.
Isaiah Downs was born in McIntosh County but has lived in Liberty County for the better part of his life. Helen Downs, born in Savannah, was just a child when her family relocated to Flemington.
She can still recall the day she first met her husband.
“I was working at a little store down in Flemington,” she said. “It was a small café and store combined. And he came in and bought a Dr. Pepper and a little Dixie cup full of ice cream. And I guess somehow or another he kind of liked what he saw and he kept coming back. He was very different from most of the young men. I was impressed. He had on a white shirt with his sleeves turned up a little, dressed nicely. He didn’t act obnoxious.”
Isaiah Downs also recalls that moment.
“The first time I saw her, I could have picked her up and held her tightly,” he said, that adding for him, it was definitely love at first sight.
Sitting in their Allenhurst home, the couple share a satirically whimsical attitude about their love for each other.
“She was the pick of the litter,” he joked before quickly adding, “And she was always the one for me … all the time.”
“One of the main issues we’ve had was the fact the he liked his bathroom tissue rolled one way and I definitely liked it rolled the other way. … God was merciful and finally give us our own separate bathrooms so we haven’t come to punches yet,” she quipped and started giggling. “We have our differences, but it’s nothing we can’t solve without the help of the Lord. I am a different person than he, and there were some things in life I would have done differently … for instance him working too hard. … But I don’t believe in being robots. … You cannot rob people of their individuality … and I wouldn’t trade him for anybody else.”
Helen Downs said the first four years were rough.
“He got a position with Union Bag and Paper Corporation out of Savannah as a timber estimator and surveyor,” she explained. “For the first four years of our marriage, we only got to see each other on the weekends. I was very fortunate to live near his caring parents and his younger siblings. I was really blessed. … Some women back then, this was about 1945 and a little before and after, had their husbands overseas. But they (military) wouldn’t have him. … I think he was a little frail somehow, but the Lord was saving him for me.”
“Well, she was my bride and I needed to be with her, but I had to make a living,” he said, recalling those difficult years. “You worked for $18-20 a week.”
She said that throughout the years, her husband wore many hats when it came to providing for his family. It was a trait he learned as a child growing up and working on his parents’ farm.
“He worked on the farm with his parents. … He sold peanuts. Later on, he delivered early morning newspapers out to Fort Stewart,” she said.
The couple briefly left Liberty County when Isaiah Downs found employment in construction, which led him to North Georgia and Delaware. They soon returned home and, around 1956, he purchased a lumber company. Since then, Downs Lumber and Supply has been at the same Deal Street location in Hinesville for 59 years.
The couple had two children, Kenneth Wayne Downs and Lois Helene Downs.
“But we’ve lost them to cancer,” Helen Downs said.
She said they are still blessed with loving family that is constantly caring for them.
“John Hershel Downs and Tanya Downs Goode were my son’s children, and Allison Downs was my daughter’s only child,” she said adding they also have three great-grandchildren Aiden, Abigail and Aubrey.
Thirty-two years ago, Isaiah Downs built his wife a luxurious home nestled on 50 acres and a pond. It is where the couple still resides. Throughout the years, the couple had chickens, goats, horses, cattle and a bountiful vegetable garden.
She continues to teach Sunday school, as she has for the past 45 years. He still tinkers with construction projects on homes and buildings that sit on his vast property.
She said they still are in relatively good health but have had a few issues.
“My grandson, John Downs, and his wife moved down from North Georgia to be with us and assist us,” Helen Downs said. “I have been ill, and she is a nurse. … They came to be with us, and it’s been such a blessing. He was such a dear little grandson. He followed us everywhere. His granddaddy taught him so much.
“He has a lot of integrity. He needs to lend me about a pound of it,” she continued to say about her grandson, whom she said she affectionately calls “John Boy.”
She said she admires her husband’s character and his devotion to God and family. She said her husband still looks at her and calls her “beautiful.”