He studied business at La Salle College and served in the Army during the Korean War.
In 1954 he married Helen "Nancy" McGinty, whom he had met in high school. She attended West Philadelphia Catholic High School for Girls. The couple were longtime residents of Springfield.
For his work with Catholic organizations, Mr. Downey received several awards, including the 1985 Papal Order of the Knights of St. Gregory the Great, which is given for meritorious service to the church.
In the 1960s, Mr. Downey was one of the founders of the Catholic Youth Organization at Holy Cross parish in Springfield.
Mr. Downey was a board member of St. Francis Country House, a nursing facility in Darby Borough. He also held posts at St. Leonard's Academy in West Philadelphia.
He was a past president of the Catholic Philopatrian Literary Institute in Center City, an organization that promotes educational and charitable causes.
Mr. Downey enjoyed golf and was a member of the Rolling Green Golf Club in Springfield. He also enjoyed attending Eagles and Phillies games as well as sporting events involving his children and grandchildren.
"He was a lot of fun," said his daughter Marie Fitzpatrick. "He had a great sense of humor.
In addition to his daughter, Mr. Downey is survived by daughters Ann Christensen and Kathleen Downey; sons James Jr. and John; 12 grandchildren; and a sister. His wife died in 2002.
A viewing will be held at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27, at O'Leary Funeral Home, 640 E. Springfield Rd., Springfield.
A second viewing will begin at 9 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, at St. Dorothy Roman Catholic Church, 4910 Township Line Rd., Drexel Hill. A Funeral Mass will be said at the church at 10:30 a.m. Burial will be in St. Denis Cemetery, Havertown.
Contact Vernon Clark at 215-854-5717 or email@example.com.