Sudbury: Tributes to former landlord and bowls club president Jack Downes

A WELL-KNOWN publican from west Suffolk who has been described as a “larger than life character” has died aged 92.

Jack Downes had been living in St Joseph’s nursing home in Sudbury when he died early last Wednesday, four days after his birthday.

The grandfather-of-two had been a landlord in west Suffolk from 1946 to 1981, firstly at the Angel in Sudbury, then the Fleece at Boxford and finally at the Eagle in Sicklesmere.

Mr Downes was also well-known through the clubs he was involved in, having been the president of Sudbury Bowls Club for 15 years and a member and vice-president of Sudbury Cricket Club since 1946. He had also been a member of Newton Green Golf Club for a number of years and was a founding member of Stoke by Nayland Golf Club.

His son Gavin Downes, 61, who runs Gavin Ashley Hairdressing in Churchgate Street, Bury St Edmunds, with wife Tonia, said: “Everybody knew Jack. Everybody said he was a dreadful flirt. He was an adorable man. Everybody loved him.

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“After mum died in ’99 we thought we were going to lose him because he went into hospital that same year and I thought it was going to be a case of broken heart, but he picked himself up again and found a new life with bowls and cricket and a new set of friends.”

Mr Downes had been born in Macclesfield in Cheshire in 1920 where he trained as a butcher. He also won a scholarship to study textile design at the University of Manchester, but the war intervened and he never returned north.

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He was part of the D-Day landings and near the end of the war he met his wife Decima, known to all as ‘Decie,’ who was from Suffolk.

After running pubs for 35 years, they retired in 1981. Mr Downes jnr said his father had a sense of humour and put 100% into everything he took on. He added: “He was a sergeant major and he held his shoulders back when he walked in a room and everyone knew he was there.”

As Mrs Downes passed away on August 8, 1999, Mr Downes jnr felt it was fitting his father’s cremation should be on the same day. The cremation at West Suffolk Crematorium is private, but all are welcome to attend a Thanksgiving service for his life at St Gregory’s Church in Sudbury at 12.30pm on August 8.

The scattering of Mr Downes’ ashes will be performed privately at Edwardstone Church on August 18 on the graves of his wife and their first son Nigel, who died in a tragic accident aged two-and-a-half.

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