Downing left an imprint on Bridgeport in a short time
Ted Downing came to Bridgeport as an outsider. He wasn’t an Ohio Valley product, but he was a people person.
Downing was hired in April of 2009 as superintendent of the Bridgeport Exempted Village School District. He served in that capacity, as well as a few others, for six years. He came from the Eastern Brown Local School District were he was principal for 18 years.
Sadly, he passed away Sunday in a Cincinnati hospital with his family by his side due to complications following back surgery. He was 67.
I had the opportunity to talk with Ted on various occasions during his half-a-dozen years at Bridgeport. Our talks often started with what was going on in the district, but usually ended with us conversing about some type of sports … most likely baseball, which was his second passion. His first was making sure children in the school district received the best education possible.
He started the iPad Program where every student in grades 9-12 received a free piece of technology that they could use at school or at home. The program was then extended to the middle and elementary schools. He was also the driving force behind the creation of the Irene Ehni Memorial Softball Field which is located on the schools campus.
Many of you know that Ted had a residence in the district. But not many knew he traveled ‘home’ on many weekends to be with his wife, who had her own ailments, and see his grandchildren.
He loved his family and it showed by all the pictures that adorned his desk and the walls of his office inside the administration building.
He also loved his academics and athletics. He could likely be found attending some type of activity each night of the week after spending all day at school.
I am proud to say that I had the privilege to meet, not only a great educator and ambassador of youth, but a very intelligent person with a huge heart.
He might not have bled Columbia Blue and Black when he arrived in Belmont County, but he did when he left.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to go home and lead that (school) district, but I’m also sad to be leaving Bridgeport because this is a great place to be,” Downing said in a story that appeared in The Times Leader. “The community made me feel welcome here. It made me feel like a part of it even though I wasn’t from around here. … If I didn’t enjoy being a part of the Bridgeport family, going home would’ve been easy, but it isn’t. It wasn’t an easy decision to even apply, and then when I was approved, there was a lot of mixed emotions because we, and I mean the board, administration, staff and community, worked together to accomplish a lot as a team.”
He left the Ohio Valley to return to his roots when he accepted the superintendent position with the Bright Local School District in Highland County, which is roughly three miles away from Downing’s hometown in Brown County.
I’m not alone in my thoughts about Ted.
“Ted was a true professional whose career in the education field should be celebrated. I was lucky enough to work and coach alongside him for several years, and stayed close with him after he left the area,” Bridgeport graduate and former head baseball coach Mike Muklewicz said. “Ted thoroughly enjoyed making a positive impact on the youth around him, both in the classroom and on the field. While he started out as my boss, he ended up being a great friend. He will be missed dearly by many.”
Muklewicz and Downing made several trips to Major League Baseball stadiums, including a memorable trip to Yankee Stadium and the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
“Ted came to Bridgeport as my boss but left as a true friend. We spent many hours together and talking on the phone. He deeply cared about his family and spoke of them often,” retired Bridgeport High School Principal Rob Zitzelsberger said. “He returned home every chance he could. He dearly loved (his grandson) Jacen and his baseball playing ability. He helped coach Jacen’s team.
“Ted and I often laughed when we may have been the only school superintendent and principal to be head coaches at the same time,” Zitzelsberger added. “I spoke to Ted often after he left. He cared about Bridgeport and how things were going. Ted cared about the students and would do anything to help them or his circle of friends. He left an imprint at Bridgeport that his family should be proud of. I was blessed to have many conversations and spent hours with my friend, Ted. I will miss our conversations.”
In addition to his duties as superintendent, Ted also spent several seasons as the Bulldogs head baseball coach. He reached a milestone in his last season when he won his 300th career game.
“Coach Downing’s passing is heartbreaking. He was such a good man and anyone who was lucky enough to meet him and have a relationship with him will tell you the same,” former player and ace pitcher, Parker Dyson, said. “He taught me many things about the game of baseball, but also how to have respect for the game. He took me on college visits and is very much the reason for me going to West Liberty and becoming a college baseball player. Everything that happens to me in my life is partly because of the advice I took from him. It shaped my future and I’ll be forever grateful.
“He was very humble. My senior year should have been partly about him, because he was very close to getting his 300th win, but he did not tell us until after he achieved it. I think that right there tells you a lot about him.
“Ted was not only my baseball coach, but a good friend, as well. He would come watch me and the other players during basketball games and give us pointers and cheer for us. He held us to the same standard as everyone else. Just because we were close didn’t mean he didn’t make sure of it to keep us on the right path.
“Even after he moved back to Cincinnati, he would come home once or twice a year just to go out to eat and catch up,” Dyson continued. “Another hint to what kind of man he was. I hope one day my kids can experience what it’s like to have a coach that makes that kind of impact on your life. Some aren’t so lucky. I’ll never forget Coach Downing, and I look forward to seeing him on the other side.”
Current Bridgeport Schools Superintendent Brent Ripley had the following comment on behalf of the district:
“I had a 30-minute conversation with Ted from a single phone call about three weeks ago. I just wanted to find out some history of the Bridgeport schools and why we do certain things. He was very helpful and very kind.
“He still talked highly of Bridgeport and spoke volumes about how the people treated the kids here.
“On behalf of the board of education and the entire district, we extend our sympathies to Ted’s family.”
Ted had retired and had gotten re-hired at Bright Local where he served from 2015.
“Ted Downing will be greatly missed at Bright Local Schools, not only as a superintendent but also as my friend,” BLSD Board of Education President Angela Wright told The Highland County Press.
“Ted is responsible in getting our district back on the right track. Ted loved what he did. He loved being involved with all aspects of our district,” Wright said. “He has done many things to be proud of.
“I – and our district – will miss Ted dearly.”
He is survived by his wife, Jill, and their children and grandchildren.
According to the Bright Local School District, a visitation will be held from 5-8 p.m. Thursday with a funeral service at 10 a.m. Friday. Both will be held at Whiteoak High School in Mowrystown.
Once a Bulldog, always a Bulldog!
Rest In Peace my friend.