Margaret Cecelia Veronica (Popelka) Downing passed away peacefully at her home on Wednesday, July 4, 2019. Margaret was born to the late Helen (Kowatch) and Anton Popelka on December 6, 1945, in Chicago, Illinois. She grew up in Spring Grove, Illinois, with 12 siblings.
On August 25, 1978, Margaret married George Walter Downing, and they built a beautiful home together in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Throughout their marriage, Margaret enjoyed working hand in hand with George to grow his business, Lake Geneva Spindustries. She served as President of Spindustries’ sister company San Jamar until she and George retired in 1994. Following George’s passing in 2006, Margaret also served as Administrator for the Town of Geneva.
A devout Catholic, Margaret dedicated her life to helping others. She was elected President of the St. Francis de Sales School Board, served on the Vocational Industries Board of Directors, was an active volunteer at the Lake Geneva Food Pantry, served on the Advisory Board at Geneva National Golf Club and was the recipient of their Lifelong Empowerment Open (L.E.O. Award) in 2013, and was active in the Lake Geneva Lioness Club.
Margaret’s passion has always been children, and anyone who had the good fortune to know Margaret knows that when she asked you for help, especially when it came to children in need, the only answer she would accept was “yes.” She served two terms on the Walworth County Board to ensure Lakeland School in Elkhorn would be built for the special needs of children. She then joined the Walworth County Alliance for Children (WCAC), turning the dreams of the 20+ year group into reality; her passion, drive, business expertise, and commitment are the reasons the Tree House Child and Family Center was built to serve the children and families of Walworth County who have been affected by child abuse and neglect. In 2016, Margaret was the recipient of the WCAC Founder’s Award.
Margaret was also an avid golfer, a lover of books and traveling, and a shrewd gambler. She delighted in opportunities to lighten the wallet of any family member or friend who made the mistake of thinking they could beat her in a game of poker.
Unquestionably, Margaret’s pride and joy in her life was her family, and she was the glue that brought together a truly motley crew of siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and more. Margaret is survived by her four daughters, Susan Wesner, Tara Young, Monica Hochevar, and Nichole “Koko” Cooper; son-in-law Scott Wesner; daughter-in-law Barbara Downing; grandchildren Bart (Amy) Downing, Kimberly (Matthew) Grensavitch, Kristen Davis, Elaine (Joseph) Sellenheim, Patrick Stuart, Adam (Cassandra) Wesner, Hayden Hochevar, Emerson Hochevar, and Addison Hochevar; great-grandchildren Nicholas Zerbach, Jamie Grensavitch, Audrey Grensavitch, Kenneth Grensavitch, Heidi Sellenheim, Autumn Sellenheim, Michael Downing, and future baby Wesner; brothers Anthony Popelka, Edward Popelka, John (Joan) Popelka, Robert Popelka, and Vincent (Susan) Popelka; sisters Barbara Popelka, Elizabeth Tepley, Mary Gosse, Rita Popelka, and Theresa (Richard) Greskoviak; cherished extended family and friends; and her beloved dog Mandy. She is preceded in death by her husband George, her sister Patricia Popelka, her brother Joseph Popelka, her son Jeffrey Downing, grandson BJ Downing, son-in-law John Robert Hochevar, many family pets, and dear family and friends.
Visitation will be held on Wednesday, July 10, 2019, from 5:00pm until 8:00pm in the main chapel of Derrick Funeral Home and Cremation Services in Lake Geneva. A mass of Christian burial for Margaret will be held on Thursday, July 11, 2019, at 12:30pm at St. Francis de Sales Church in Lake Geneva. A private family interment will take place at St. Peter’s Church Cemetery in Spring Grove, Illinois.
In lieu of other expressions of sympathy, the family has asked for donations to be made in Margaret’s name to the Walworth County Alliance for Children in Elkhorn or the Walworth County Food Pantry in Elkhorn.
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Walworth County Child Advocacy Center
W4063 Hwy. NN, Elkhorn WI 53121
Walworth County Food Pantry
205 E. Commerce Court, Elkhorn WI 53121