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Donna Downes, community activist and advertising professional, passed away from small-cell neuro-endocrine cancer, an extremely rare and potent disease, at age 64 on Thurs., April 12. She outlived dire predictions by almost a full year.
Downes was a talented artist, art director, writer and designer.
Born in Maryland, Downes was an honors graduate of George Washington University and held degrees from Columbia College and the Corcoran College of Art and Design. Donna and her husband, David Zaus, were guest lecturers at Savannah College of Art and Design.
With her husband/partner, Donna designed numerous fabrications and exhibit displays, which were featured in trade and consumer publications and were given numerous awards including the Clio Award for excellence in advertising. She and her husband also designed a promotional campaign for Lower Manhattan entitled Celebrate Downtown.
Donna was a community activist and a resident of Tribeca since 1985. She championed the preservation of the neighborhood’s cobblestone streets, and its historic district. Donna was an official class parent at P.S. 234 and MAT. She mentored and helped fifth grade students at P.S. 234 create a school newspaper, the Newsies. She also coached the girls’ basketball team for three years.
Downes was an expert downhill skier, a seven-time participant in the NYC Marathon, who finished in the top 15 percent of her age group every time she ran. Other accomplishments included being an expert sailor and helmsperson for over 40 years, and mastering both the French and Spanish languages.
Downes’ family roots were in Maryland and Virginia and she was the oldest of seven children. She leaves behind her brothers Kenneth and David, and sisters Denise, Susie, and Doris, her husband David Zaus, a high-school-aged daughter Margaux, a stepson Zachary Zaus of Brooklyn, and a step-daughter Kimberly Kinkaid of Houston, Texas as well as her mother, Doris Downes of Scottsdale, Arizona.
Please feel free to make contributions to the American Cancer Society in her honor. A memorial service will be held on Saturday to celebrate Downes’ life at her home in Tribeca.