Robert Cormack, former two-time Downey mayor, dies at 99

DOWNEY — Former Downey mayor Robert Cormack has died. He was 99.

Robert Cormack served two terms as Downey mayor in the 1980s. Family photo.

Robert Cormack served two terms as Downey mayor in the 1980s. Family photo.

Cormack passed away on Feb 21.

Longtime residents of Downey may remember Cormack from when he served as mayor during two separate terms, from July 1983 to July 1984, and July 1988 to June 1989. He was also a past Downey school board member and involved with the Downey Historical Society.

Former mayor David Gafin described Cormack as “a wonderful guy.”

"I didn't work with him a lot because he served a few years before me,” said Gafin. “He was the old school type of councilman: stalwart, a gentleman, and an upright, honest person. He always carried himself very well. The city will sorely miss him."

Cormack carried a strong pride of Downey throughout his life, according to his daughter, Sharon Leon.

“Downey was the town he loved,” she said. “He was very involved with the city, making sure the residents were taken care of right, and that they were going to keep the historical part of the city as well.”

Cormack was also patriotic, having volunteered for the army in WW II. He served as a welder, and spent some time in Germany.

Leon says that he was an “All-American man.”

“He loved the red, white and blue hats. He had a flag everyday flying, and it was put away by dark; if it was raining it wasn’t out there,” said Leon. “Every day till the end, he would put up an American flag.”

Cormack was also a faithful Christian.

“He always had a bible in his car, next to his chair,” said Leon. “He read the Bible; that was his favorite book.”

She also describes Cormack as “the most positive man you will ever meet.”

“Being a religious person, I just think he knew what life was about,” said Leon. “He tried so desperately to keep people focused on good things in life…we were very blessed to have him as a part of our family. We were blessed beyond anything I could ever say.”

Cormack married his first wife Louise at the age of 18, and remained married for 56 years until her passing. They had three sons - Robert, Harold, and Steven – who have all preceded him in death.

Cormack met his second wife, Faith, at the First Baptist Church of Downey, and married her after a very quick courtship. They were married 26 years.

However, upon entering this already established family, he didn’t leave the warmest of impressions.

“When he became part of our family…he was kind of a stuffy man,” said Leon.

It was his newfound grandchildren that softened him up.

“To watch him grow into a role of a grandfather was unbelievable,” said Leon. “I watched him turn from this very stout man into this gentle, loving soul; and what a role model he was to our kids.”

Robert Cormack, center, was honored at a Downey City Council meeting in 2018. Photo by Claudia Gomez.

Robert Cormack, center, was honored at a Downey City Council meeting in 2018. Photo by Claudia Gomez.

Cormack’s grandson, Darren Avery, says that “Everything he did was based around my sister and I at the time.”

“He took to my sister and I right away, because from what I have been told he always wanted grandchildren,” said Avery. “Unfortunately, none of his boys had children.”

“As a person, I never saw him get mad at anybody,” added Avery. “He was always such a happy person…He was one of the kindest people that I had ever met.”

Cormack and his wife had recently completed making the move to Northern California. However, it wasn’t long after they made their final trip that Cormack became sick.

“He was very excited about that…having a relaxing life, not the hustle and bustle of the city. You know, a country life,” said Leon. “We’ve been moving them over the last four or five months. I picked them up on a Sunday, and by Wednesday he was in the hospital.”

Leon says that her father remained strong in his final days.

“This man fought and fought to stay around,” said Leon. “He stayed to take care of my mom, to make sure that my mom got here and that she was going to be okay.”

Cormack died at home, surrounded by family.

Through his memory, Leon hopes that people will take away a lesson of love.

“The love of his family and the love of his lord gave him a wonderful 99 years of life,” said Leon. “We all should love each other the way he taught us.

“There’s no greater person than that man, and we’re the lucky ones.”

Services will be held Friday, March 15, at 11 a.m. at Florence Avenue Foursquare Church in Santa Fe Springs.
Eric Pierce contributed to the story.

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