, passed away unexpectedly on August 19, 2020 in New Port Richey, FL at the age of 57. Sam was born in Woodbury, New Jersey to Samuel W. Downs, Sr. and Terry (née Armstrong) Downs. Sam was the oldest of four boys and the closeness he and his brothers shared from childhood through adulthood was second to none. Sam married the love of his life, Michelle (née Puglia) Downs in 1982 when they were just children themselves. Education was important to Sam. After graduating from Delsea Regional High School in Franklinville, New Jersey, he went on to attain two associate degrees, a bachelor’s degree, and two master’s degrees.
Sam was a military veteran whose career spanned 26 years. He was an active duty Paratrooper in the United States Army serving with the Military Police Corps for over 15 years. Sam was a Paratrooper with the premier 82nd Airborne Division (Americas Guard of Honor) and was involved in Operation Just Cause, Panama mid-December 1989 where he parachuted into darkness and live combat earning his coveted combat master parachutist badge with bronze service star. He helped stand up the Army’s new brigade combat team (BCT) pilot program in Alaska as the platoon Sergeant for the 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade (SIB) (Airborne). While serving, he earned his Royal-Thai foreign Jump wings, German jump wings, Spanish jump wings, Ecuadorian jump wings and Canadian Parachutists Badge, German Marksmanship Badge (Gold), and his Army Physical Fitness Badge to mention only a few. Sam was like a father, a leader, a counselor, a critic, and friend to his Troopers. He also deployed to Operation Desert Shield / Desert Storm, Saudi Arabia and Iraq along with various other military deployments. Sam was the epitome of what a leader should be which is evident by him being selected as the Distinguished Honor Graduate and Leadership Award winner for his basic non-commissioned officer class and officer basic course. Sam was selected to the sergeants major academy which he turned down to change course and apply his leadership capabilities elsewhere within the department of defense. He separated from active duty and served in the Army Reserve Medical Corps for five years and the Air Force Reserve Medical Corps for six years. He ended his military career by retiring as a Captain from the Air Force Reserves. Sam continued to serve his country after his military service by working as a civilian for the Air Force Space Command in military satellite communications until he retired in 2019. Sam was very proud and honored to serve his country throughout his adult life. Sam was as an incredible soldier. However, the impact he had on his family was by far the most significant. Sam and Michelle had three children and he loved his children dearly. They remember him as a hardworking, supportive, kind, and passionate father who was very active in their lives. Sam encouraged his children to pursue their goals and follow their own dreams and adventures wherever that might take them. From the moment his first grandchild, Kiya, was brought into the world, the love and joy provided by his grandchildren was paramount to his existence. Each one of them had their own unique bond with him. He was an involved and loving uncle, cousin, nephew, son, father-in-law, brother-in-law, and son-in-law. Sam was a wonderful husband and by the way he looked at Michelle, you could see the deep love he had for her. Michelle and Sam genuinely enjoyed each other and were not only spouses, but also friends.
Sam lived life to the fullest. He was adventurous and loved the outdoors. Sam traveled around the world with family and friends. He had a keen eye and enjoyed documenting through his love of photography. Sam was a mentor to many people throughout the years, from his soldiers to the children he coached in sports. His ability to make his presence as meaningful as possible to all – family, friends, neighbors and even strangers – has left a hole that cannot be filled. He was the most helpful, capable, and willing person regarding the needs of those around him. It is beyond words how much he will be missed by all of the people he touched throughout his life. Sam leaves behind his wife, Michelle and their three children, Regina and her husband James Skinner, Trisha Downs and Sam Downs III and his wife Nicole. He also leaves behind six grandchildren: Kiya, Jack, Rosalie, Lucille, Athena, and Persephani. He is survived by his siblings, Russell Downs and his wife Helen, Douglas Downs and his wife Erin, and Steven Downs and his wife Missy, as well as his parents.
A military honor service and celebration of his life will be held on a date to be determined.