Resort industry mourns Robert Downing's passing

Ontario’s hospitality industry is mourning the loss of one of its mentors.

Robert Downing, 80, passed away peacefully on Wednesday (July 15) at Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital in Orillia.

“We
are all grieving his passing,” said Grace Sammut, managing director of
Resorts of Ontario. “He was such an amazing icon in this tourism and
hospitality industry.”

Downing,
originally from Port Dover, married Mary Lou Rumble in 1958, whose
family owned the Fern Resort. After graduating from Ryerson University
at age 21, Downing was hired as the assistant manager of the Hudson Bay
Company’s restaurant in Vancouver.

After three years in the restaurant industry, the Downings returned to the Fern Resort to assist with its operations.

Although Downing once vowed to “never work in the resort business” he agreed to assists with the Orillia hotel for one year.

His one-year commitment turned into 55 years with the resort.

Downing also served as president of Resorts of Ontario
for two years and as the organization’s marketing chair for 25 years.

This
year, Mark Downing followed in his father’s footsteps and became
president of Resorts of Ontario, the third member of the family to hold
the title.

“Robert was there to see his son become President,”
Sammut said. “We are so pleased that he was present to see this take
place.”   

A visitation will be held at Mundell Funeral Home, 79
West St. North in Orillia from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday
(July 17) and On Saturday (July 18) from noon to 1 p.m.

Downing’s funeral service takes place at St. Paul’s United Church, 62 Peter ST. North, at 1 p.m. on Saturday (July 18).