Remembering James Downs

On Saturday, October 10th, James Downs passed away while hundreds of dear friends prayed and carried him in their hearts.

A native Texan with a background in theater, James's true home was Yosemite National Park, where he lived for nearly 2 decades, working in concessions, and writing several volumes of spare, luminous poetry that celebrated the beauty of the world around him, and his love of the people and creatures that filled it. If you were lucky enough to catch him at Degnan's Deli or on a bench gazing out over a meadow you were immediately drawn in by his keen storytelling, irresistible good humor, and sensitivity to the ebbs and flows of nature surrounding him.

James met his beloved wife Joyce in the employee dorms in Yosemite in May 2004, and proposed one minute into Valentines Day, 2006. They were married a year later in Madera, CA at the home of Laurene Hensle and John Peterson, his dear friend and poetic collaborator. James rejoiced in his love for his wife and their family, and they proudly moved to a home of their own in Sonora, CA in 2013.

A poet and songwriter, James cultivated a wide community of fellow poets online, and through his work with Poetic Matrix Press. He was a music lover who relished the opportunity to travel to San Francisco for a concert, or a poetry reading, and kept abreast of new music and literary trends with the verve of a much younger man.

It is rare to have had the opportunity to know someone like James. In the course of his nearly 70 years he faced many struggles, including difficulties with health and mental health, and yet never developed bitterness, or lost the joy of life which is probably the thing for which he is most remembered. James loved being alive, he loved his friends and family, and he loved the huge vastness of the world around him. It was palpable and invigorating, and is sorely missed.

When James passed he left behind not only his wife Joyce, but her daughters Allison Nicole Skinner and Samantha Diane Balmor, and Allison's sons Luke, Alexander, and John, who James embraced as the family he had always wanted and was delighted to be able to love. He is also survived by his brother Ward, sisters Peggy and Sherry, sister-in-law Jan, and hundreds friends across the world.

So many people were touched by James, and miss him very much. These are difficult times for numerous reasons, and losing a family member is always a trial. This fundraiser is an opportunity to remember James, and offer support to his wife Joyce, the delight of his life, with whom he was able to spend 16 wonderful years. The end of life expenses can easily approach $10,000, which is a huge expense in a time of grief. As a community, we should care for James's family on his behalf in this very overwhelming moment.

Please, if you ever felt your heart catch reading one of his poems, or laughed at one of his stories, send along a tribute to his spirit and the joy he brought to everyone he knew. James can never be replaced, but he can still support his family though us, the many people he loved throughout his joyous life.


  • Anonymous
    • $25 
    • 3 yrs
  • Elizabeth Graham
    • $20 
    • 3 yrs
  • Heidi Giles
    • $20 
    • 3 yrs
  • Anonymous
    • $15 
    • 3 yrs
  • Sandra Padilla
    • $50 
    • 3 yrs

Organizer and beneficiary

Devon Peterson
Sonora, CA
Joyce Downs

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