Terry O. Downer, an insurance company claims adjuster and world traveler, died Saturday from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center.
The Towson resident was 58.
Born in Baltimore to a single mother, Terry O'Neal Downer was raised at the old Lexington Terrace public housing high-rise that was later demolished.
Mr. Downer received a full scholarship to McDonogh School, but transportation difficulties forced him to leave and enroll at Northwestern High School, from which he graduated in 1973.
He enrolled at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, from which he earned a bachelor's degree in history in 1977.
While a student at UMBC, he met and fell in love with the former Pamela Joette Thompson, whom he married in 1979. He enrolled in the master's in business program at the University of Maryland at night, while working as a counselor at Marian House for battered women and as a drug counselor.
In 1982, his son, Ryan Chasce Downer, was born, and four months later Mr. Downer's wife was stricken with an aneurysm and died.
Faced with being a single parent, Mr. Downer withdrew from the University of Maryland and went to work full time as an insurance claims adjuster for the Traveler's Insurance Co., where he continued working until his death.
Mr. Downer, worried about the deterioration of the city's Pimlico neighborhood, moved to Towson with his son.
Acutely aware of the advantages he lacked growing up, Mr. Downer worked tirelessly so that his son could attend parochial schools and later the Park School, from which he graduated.
When his son was accepted at Harvard University, he took out a second mortgage on his home, said his son, who is now a Washington lawyer.
Mr. Downer and his son traveled all over the world together and had visited Brussels, Amsterdam, Cyprus and Brazil. He enjoyed gardening — especially roses — and maintaining his koi pond.
A celebration of Mr. Downer's life will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Lemmon Funeral Home, 10 W. Padonia Road, Timonium.
In addition to his son, Mr. Downer is survived by his mother, Della Downer of Baltimore; six brothers, James Downer, Tony Downer, Alan Downer, Victor Downer, Spencer Downer, all of Baltimore, and Barry Downer of Atlanta; and a sister, Sharon Downer of Baltimore.