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Shannon Door Pub to host celebration for Valley's friend, Dec. 6

First Annual Jerry Downs Memorial Christmas Tree Trimming Party

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December 03, 2009
The story begins about 30 years ago when Downs, who vacationed in North Conway met the Mulkern family of Shannon Door fame. Nora Mulkern was 10 years old when she met Downs, who became a fast friend of the Mulkerns. Mulkern remembers back to when she was young and says that Downs used to take her Christmas shopping in Portland.

"This probably made me the shopper I am today," says Mulkern. He would also let her choose her favorite restaurant, which was McDonalds or Bonanza at the time, and then take her back to what she refers to as his famous Snoopy apartment to wrap presents.

"He taught me the right way to wrap presents without wasting any paper," she adds. He also gave Mulkern her first Snoopy.

To say that Jerry Downs was an avid Snoopy collector is an understatement. The character created by the cartoonist Charles Schulz held much fascination for Downs and he shared his love of Snoopy with Valley children in a big way. Mulkern's own eight-year-old daughter, Emily Bean, has 25 Snoopys from Jerry Downs.

Both Nora and sister Kathleen describe the "famous" Snoopy apartment. "He had a massive Snoopy collection; his whole apartment was Snoopy," says Nora. Kathleen explains that his sofa was covered with the Snoopys he collected. "He went crazy with Snoopys. He had a Snoopy phone, Snoopy sheets, Snoopy shower curtain, he wrapped everything in blue Snoopy wrapping paper and even had a roll of Snoopy toilet paper. When we were cleaning out his apartment, I found 55 unworn Snoopy tee shirts," says Kathleen .

Downs loved to share his passion for Snoopy and Christmas with others. "Traditionally, the first Saturday after Thanksgiving, Jerry would host a Christmas tree decorating party at his apartment for friends and kids of all ages. Jerry loved Christmas," says Nora. She adds that each child would decorate the tree with Snoopy ornaments and that Downs had probably collected 1,000 ornaments over the years.

Every year, Downs would travel to buy his ornaments. "Jerry would shop every Hallmark store between Manchester and Portland to pick up Snoopy ornaments; he'd clean them [stores] out!" says Kathleen.

And there was candy, lots of candy — candy and Snoopys everywhere. "It was better than trick or treat; it was a candy fest," says Nora. "The kids loved him and would hug his big belly," she adds.

Some of the children who attended those parties remember them — and Jerry — very well. Kathleen Mulkern's son Liam said he would always look to get the stool on the porch so he could reach higher to decorate the tree. His brother, Finn, says, "The candy." Liam's twin sister Mae says, "Jerry is a big marshmallow!" Cousin Emily Bean says of Jerry Downs, "He was just nice."

And nice he was, not only to the children of the Valley, but to the many businesses he helped with their books — the Shannon Door, Attitash, the former Berlin City Bank, to name a few —‚ and to the many organizations he supported, including Children Unlimited and he was a communicant of Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church. Mulkern says his faith was strong and on the day he passed away he was ushering a friend's funeral at the Jackson Community Church. "He was charitable in so many different ways to so many different people; he helped so many people and children," says Kathleen.

Downs was particularly fond of the theatre and a great supporter of the Mt. Washington Valley Theatre Company, serving on its board and volunteering many, many hours. It was also his love of theatre that he shared with children.

Downs encouraged local children to participate in children's theatre, often times letting them know of auditions, taking them to the auditions, and it wasn't unusual to see Downs sitting by the theatre on the Friday morning. "He was always sitting on Friday mornings [at theatre] to greet his kids," says Nora. Downs would buy blocks of tickets and donate them to Children Unlimited Learning Center.

And he took children to theatre out of town, too. The Mulkerns remember trips to Boston to see the Nutcracker Ballet. Each year Downs would take a group of children to see the performance, Nora said. "He was even a member of the Boston Ballet, so he could get the best tickets in the house." He paid a lot of money for the tickets, she adds.

To keep Jerry Downs's Christmas tree decorating party alive, and to honor and remember Jerry Downs, the Shannon Door is having a celebration on Sunday, Dec. 6, at 4 p.m.

"Come have a pizza, have a pint and have a treat — we will have bowls of candy too!" says Nora. The live tree which Erik Chandler displayed at Downs's wake will be up and available for all children and adults to decorate. The tree will be later planted on the Shannon Door property to help Downs's memory live on.

"Jerry's family has been kind enough to lend us some ornaments to help decorate the tree," says Nora. She invites everyone to attend and to donate a Snoopy ornament. There will be raffle tickets for gift certificates, haircuts and massages. The donations will benefit the Mt. Washington Valley Theatre Company, where Downs volunteered so much.

Mulkern shared what Linda Pinkham, director of the Mt. Washington Valley Theatre Company, had to say about Jerry Downs: "If Charles Schulz let Charlie Brown grow up, he would have been Jerry Downs."

Martin Lord Osman
Tilton School
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