Obituaries detail

Rick Vernon Downey

Rick Vernon Downey, 72, of Leawood, Kansas, passed away Sunday, April 18, 2021 at Kansas University Medical Center. Born in Kansas City and raised in Independence as the youngest of 3 children, Rick graduated from Raytown High School in 1966. Rick then enrolled at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, becoming the first in his family to graduate from a 4-year college when he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1970. Rick worked as a fraud investigator, initially for the state of Missouri, then in the mid-1970s moving to a similar role for the state of Kansas, where he remained until his retirement.


During his youth in the 1950s, Rick developed a passion for music, initially learning the piano and eventually settling in as a drummer. While in high school, Rick was a part of the Raytown High marching band.  Additionally, inspired by the music of the era (especially such acts as Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley, among others), he was an active member of several bands. Rick often reflected on a high point of his musical career, traveling with his band “Spanky and the Upsetters” on a summer tour backing up the “Righteous Brothers”. He remained an active member of the Kansas City Federation of Musicians Local 34-627 until 1998.

While studying Psychology at UMKC, Rick met Janet Eileen Eads, who would become his lifelong partner, friend, and sweetheart. Rick and Janet married shortly after graduation, in August 1970, and remained faithfully devoted to each other through more than 50 years of marriage. Less than 2 years later they welcomed their only son Brian to the world. Soon thereafter, in 1973, Rick was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, a diagnosis that would change his life forever. With Janet by his side, he received life-saving cancer treatments at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX; while toxicity from his treatment challenged him later in life, he was a proud cancer survivor who took advantage of his new lease on life.


In 1976 Rick and Janet bought their first house in Santa Fe Hills, where they remained until 1999 when they relocated “over the border” to Leawood, Kansas, where he resided until his death. In addition to his passion for music, Rick was known for devotion to his family, his kindness and his sense of humor.  Rick coached several of Brian’s Little League baseball teams and attended nearly every extracurricular activity of Brian’s throughout elementary and high school. Rick’s voracious appetite for books led him to become a well-known regular at the Southwest and Waldo branches of the Kansas City Public Library as well as the Leawood Pioneer branch of the Johnson County Library. Rick and Janet traveled widely and they visited many states and countries around the world. Of course, one of his favorite places to visit was the Boston area to spend time with their 5 grandchildren.


Rick is survived by his wife of over 50 years, Janet Eads Downey; son and daughter-in-law, Drs. Brian and Shauna Downey; his five grandchildren – Patrick, Brendan, Evan, Bridget, and Mary; his sister and brother-in-law, Janet and Sam Guenther; his brother and sister-in-law, Ron and Karen Downey; Janet’s sister, Merlene Eads;  4 nieces, 1 nephew, and many of Janet’s cousins. Services will be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Harvesters Food Bank ( or Rockhurst High School (, both in Kansas City.


Jim and Steph Bodor Apr 22 ,2021

Friend ,Grafton ,Massachusetts

Janet and Brian, We are so sorry for your loss. We will always remember Rick as we last saw him, enjoying lobsters with us all and the grandkids on the Cape. You are in our thoughts as you go through this difficult time. Jim and Stephanie.

Leslie Bishop Apr 22 ,2021

Friend ,Framingham ,Massachusetts

Brian, Shauna and family, We are so sorry about the loss of your father/grandfather. May the wonderful memories of him comfort you. You are in our thoughts and prayers. Love, Rick, Leslie, Elizabeth and Kathryn

Linda Brockhoff Apr 23 ,2021

Janet, Brian and family, so sorry for the loss of Rick. He was an exceptional person. He will be greatly missed.

Colleen Sundblad Apr 24 ,2021

Cousin to Janet ,Kansas City ,Missouri

Janet, Brian & family & Merlene, I am so sorry that Rick has died. He was a wonderful man & an amazing husband & father. He fought cancer & survived, he is an inspiration to all. Rick will be missed by all who knew him.

Thomas E Sprenlel Apr 25 ,2021

Friend ,Leander ,Texas

I worked with Rick at the State of Kansas from 1997 until my retirement in 2007. We used to sit in each other's cubical and talk about world problems and decide how to solve them. I so respected Rick. He was a true joy to be around. When I made the decision to retire at the end of 2006 Rick sent an email to all employees at the Kansas SRS to inform them of my leaving and then he formed a group of our friends for one last lunch at a local KCKS eating hole. Rick was one in a million. So, sorry he is gone.