John R. Dowling, 84, of Watseka passed away on Sunday, June 17, 2018 in Watseka. He was born on August 20, 1933 in Murrayville, IL, the son of John W. and Hattie Mae (Cooper) Dowling.
Reta A. Dowling, 84, of Watseka passed away on Sunday, June 17, 2018 at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana. She was born on January 6, 1934 in Danville, IL, the daughter of Myron R. and Blanche H. (McGahan) Miller.
John and Reta were high school sweethearts at Danville High School. They married in Danville on January 28, 1955. Surviving are three sons: Michael (Kathy) Dowling of Chester, VA, David (Kathy) Dowling of Paxton, and Robert (Kary) Dowling of Bourbonnais; seven grandchildren: William Dowling of DeKalb; Laura Dowling of San Francisco, CA; Chris Dowling of St. Louis, MO; Elizabeth Dowling of Hagerstown, MD; Kelsey Dowling of Boston, MA; Jori Dowling of Bourbonnais; and Mason Dowling of Bourbonnais; and two nieces: Susan (Miller) Bruner and Sonja Miller.
John was preceded in death by his parents, John and Hattie. Reta was preceded in death by her parents, Myron and Blanche, and one brother, Fred Miller.
John served in the United States Army Reserves during the Korean Conflict. He received his Bachelors of Science in History from Eastern Illinois University and his Masters of Science in Educational Administration degree from Illinois State University. He was an active member of the First Presbyterian Church in Watseka, IHSA Board of Directors where he was a past-president, member of the Iroquois County Board, and served as the Middleport Township Supervisor. In 1955, he started teaching and coaching in Armstrong then continued at Crescent-Iroquois High School from 1959-1963. In 1963, he joined the Watseka High School teaching staff, where he also served as principal for twelve years, ending in 1984. He then became the grade school principal at both Wanda Kendall and Nettie Davis schools. He also served as acting superintendent for a short time. He was awarded Iroquois County Teacher of the Year in 1968. In 1989, he was awarded Watseka Area Citizen of the Year. John was a member of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame, Iroquois County Republican Precinct Committeeman, Ford-Iroquois Board of Health, Watseka Library Board, I-KAN Joint Education Committee, Iroquois Memorial Hospital volunteer, and was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Watseka community. He was a frequent volunteer at Iroquois Memorial Hospital and helped organize the annual Hospice brunch for many years. John enjoyed history and he was a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan. He had a love for baseball all of his life, starting with being a batboy for the Dodgers minor league team in Danville. He authored a book on the history of the Three-I League, which is in the library of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Talking baseball and being an advocate for Iroquois County and Watseka were some of his greatest passions.
Reta was an active member of the First Presbyterian Church in Watseka, singing in the choir and was also part of the Iroquois County Cantata Choir. She started teaching in Bismarck Grade School and later taught at Crescent City Grade School and the Glenn Raymond Junior High School. She graduated from Illinois State University in 1969 with her Bachelors of Science in Education and that year started the Art Department at Watseka Community High School. Reta also co-owned and taught at the Pied Piper and Building Blocks Preschool. After she left the preschool she went on to teach 4-H students for many years. Reta served as President of the Iroquois Memorial Hospital Auxiliary and was also a member of the board for the Iroquois Mental Health Association, the Watseka Bridge Club and the Iroquois County Republican Women. She enjoyed ceramics and was a watercolorist. Reta was a former Iroquois County 4-H judge and was a blue ribbon winner for her angel food cakes. She was always taking on a new project, whether it be framing pictures for friends, making pies for the Gooseberry Festival, or immersing herself in her grandchildren’s latest school project. Reta was the official costume maker for all of her children and grandchildren, and inspired them all to bring creativity into their lives. She was a life-long learner, adopting her grandchildren’s hobbies as her own, so she could keep up with them. Reta was known for her can-do attitude, approaching every situation with grace and selflessness, and always having a kind word for everyone.
Together, John and Reta traveled the world, usually with friends and family and always making new friends along the way. The St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training was one of their favorite places. They were both avid readers and loved spending time with their grandchildren, playing games with them and attending their activities.
Funeral services will be at 10:00 am on Friday, June 22, 2018 at the First United Methodist Church in Watseka. Rev. Tom McCann will officiate. Burial will follow at Oak Hill Cemetery in Watseka.
Visitation will be from 4:00-8:00 pm on Thursday, June 21, 2018 at Knapp Funeral Home in Watseka, as well as one hour prior to the funeral service at the church on Friday.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Iroquois Memorial Hospice or Unit 9 Academic Foundation.
Please share a memory of John and Reta at knappfuneralhomes.com.