Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times | Terms of Service | Privacy Policy

Walter J. Downhower

Walter J. Downhower, 78, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, January 18, 2011.  Walt was born April 4, 1932 and grew up in Wapakoneta, Ohio.  He received his BS and MS degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University.  Walt joined JPL in 1955 where he worked for 40 years.  During his tenure, he was involved with every JPL mission since Explorer 1, America’s first satellite and the dawn of the space age.  He held numerous positions ranging from hands-on engineering to system design to flight project management to strategic planning.  He retired as Technical Executive Assistant to the Office of the Director.  Walt worked on a variety of projects including: Loki, Sergeant, ReEntry Test Vehicle, Explorer, Pioneer, Ranger, Mariner, Surveyor, Helios, and Voyager.  He received several awards from both JPL and NASA including the NASA Exceptional Service Medal in 1983.  Walt is survived by his wife Jan, sons Jim and Mike, six grandchildren, his brother Jerry, two nieces plus his beloved niece Annick.  He was preceded in death by his son John and sister Jane.  Walt will be remembered as a caring father who shared his love of Hawaii, history, race cars, airplanes, and, of course, space with his three sons.  There will be a celebration of his life at JPL’s Theodore von Kármán Auditorium on January 28, at 2:00.