Charles E. Downs Jr., a retired Holyoke High School history teacher of 34 years, died at Mercy Medical Center on Saturday, May 9 after a long and courageous fight with cancer. He was 78.

Charles was born and raised in Oak Bluffs, son of the late Charles E. and Margaret (Hickey) Downs, and played football and basketball at Oak Bluffs High School. Upon graduation, he entered the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, graduating in 1958. It should be noted that he had a brother graduating from Holy Cross in 1959, 1960 and 1961. Upon college graduation he entered the United States Air Force and served for two years in Texas and Oklahoma.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Charles pursued a career in education. Charles had a great passion for skiing, and enjoyed watching the Bruins, Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics. He had a fondness for listening to jazz music. He was a devoted communicant of Saint Patrick’s Parish.

He will be deeply missed by his wife of 55 years, Gaynell; three loving sons, Curt of South Hadley and Brian and Bart of Walpole; two brothers, Timothy of Falmouth and Michael and his wife Martha of Virginia; a sister, Mary Butler and her husband Eric of Mansfield; and many nieces and nephews. Charles’s deepest passion was spending time with his family and friends. He had no grandchildren, but all of his friends shared their grandchildren with him, which brought him great joy.

Besides his parents, Charles was predeceased by two brothers, John and Jerome. A funeral was held Thursday, May 14 at 8:00 a.m. at the Barry J. Farrell Funeral Home,followed by a Mass at Saint Patrick’s Church in South Hadley. Interment followed at the Massachusetts Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Agawam. Calling hours were May 13. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Sister Caritas Cancer Center, 271 Carew Street, Springfield MA 01104 or to Dana Farber Cancer Institute, CLL Center, 44 Binney Street, Boston MA 02115.