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Obituaries » Laufey Arnidottir Downey

Laufey Arnidottir Downey, 92, of Reston and Greene County, died March 5, 2019.

She was born May 26, 1926.

A beloved mother, grandmother, great grandmother, teacher, mentor and friend, Laufey grew up during the Great Depression in the small port city of Reykjavik Iceland. At that time, the Icelandic economy depended heavily upon shipping and fishing in the North Atlantic Ocean. Many of her family, friends and community made their living from the sea.

As a teenage girl, she saw the early winds of war and the slow unabated rise of Nazi Germany. She witnessed the horrors of a prolonged naval war in the North Atlantic and its destructive impact to the Icelandic coastline she loved so much. Along with many other Icelanders, she did her part to assist, aid and support the U.S. and Allied Forces assembling and training in Iceland.

Her uniquely American journey started when she immigrated and became a U.S. citizen after World War II. She chose a road less traveled and married William G. Downey Jr. (1914 - 1991) at Ft. Myer, Virginia. Shortly thereafter the Army of the United States took her to multiple duty stations, including Ft. Benning, Georgia and Taipei, Taiwan. She embraced and adopted the United States as her new home, while delighting in her chosen country and her role as an Army wife and mother. Laufey was a linguist and fluent in multiple languages. While at a duty station in Taiwan, she became proficient in Chinese with a specialty in Mandarin.

After the Korean War, she settled with her husband and growing family in Virginia. It was in Virginia she cultivated deep roots, focused on her family and raised her children. She returned to her beloved Iceland often, making sure her children always knew family there. Her homes in all the places she lived, no matter where, were enriched with Icelandic folklore, tales of Viking explorations, Saga’s and Icelandic Christian holiday traditions. Laufey was a founding member and past president of the Icelandic Association of Washington, D.C., active member from 1969 through 2018.

From 1980 until 1987, she served as a docent at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Throughout the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s she volunteered extensively for multiple community organizations in Fairfax, McLean and Reston. Her daily exercise routines became legendary in Reston.

In her later years she remained very active, still loved traveling, experiencing the great outdoors, cooking and gardening. At the age of 82, she hiked the Dolomite Mountains in Italy, and her travels continued until the age of 90, with a trip back to Iceland and then Scotland. Travel was a great passion for her, but her greatest joy was to be surrounded by family at her pastoral farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, where visitors were greeted by a worn old hand painted sign announcing “My Happy Place.”

Laufey instilled in all who knew her a passion for reading, a love of travel and quest for learning. She made people better just by her presence, but thru her deeds and by her example, taught others the meaning of compassion and kindness. She wrote to her family, before her passing “You will never walk alone, I will always be with you.”

She has touched thousands of lives during her remarkable 92 years on earth, and is a true matriarch of more than 56 direct descendants. She is survived by seven children, 23 grandchildren, 26 great grandchildren and her family in Iceland.
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