On May 9, 2023, James Paul Dowden passed away at the age of 57. Paul was born in 1965 to Kenneth Dowden and Shirley Dowden just north of where Arrowhead Stadium would eventually be completed just before his seventh birthday. Paul braved the frigid Kansas City wind to cheer on Len Dawson and his crew from a very young age, was a season ticket holder for 20-plus years, and he could always be counted on to send out a spirited "It's Red Friday!" reminder over the family text before gameday.
Family was everything to Paul. He was the rock, the one everyone always turned to, because he always had a plan. Paul loved his wife, three children, and granddaughter deeply, and could always be counted on to lighten the mood with his silly humor, resulting in fits of giggles from his curly-headed grandbaby. He'd also call you out when you were out of line, but only because he saw something great in you, and he wanted to see your potential fully realized.
Paul didn't do things halfway. He was a brilliant man, valedictorian of Helias High School, class of 1984. He embraced challenges and inspired others to do the same. Paul was an avid runner, and he traveled the world with his high school sweetheart and wife, Michelle, to run half marathons. During a trip to Disney World, their half marathon was canceled due to weather. The participants were given two options: a full refund or a full marathon. Paul and Michelle had run 26.2 miles exactly zero times, but that was no excuse not to try. "You miss all the shots you don't take," he would say. Working together and encouraging each other, they both finished the race, and their medals hang on the wall today as a reminder to never back down from a challenge.
At work, Paul was a change agent who specialized in plant operations, turnarounds, Lean Manufacturing, New Product introduction, and Product Lifecycle Management. Paul's colleagues described him as a paradigm breaker, a trusted advisor and mentor, and a leader with a collaborative approach and calm demeanor (until it wasn't). His teams admired his ability to break complex problems down into solvable parts, and often accused him of having a crystal ball that kept him a few steps ahead of any challenge. Paul retired from Jostens as Vice President of Global Operations in January 2023 to fully dedicate himself to his next challenge (but not before playing a part in the making of the Chiefs LIV Super Bowl Ring).
Paul was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer with no cure, but backing down was never an option. Approved therapies would not work, so he turned to clinical trials. One after the other failed, but each time, he pivoted to the next best plan, trying to buy more precious time with his family. The cancer took his life, but his bravery and willingness to be one of the first humans in the world to try a new drug (not one, not two, but three different times) has added to the scientific body of knowledge that will someday find a cure.
Paul will be deeply missed by his surviving family members. He had many names: "Hun" to wife Michelle; "Daddy" to children Jessica (and son-in-law Jesse), Nicholas, and Shannon (and future son-in-law Jon); "Papa" to granddaughter Savannah; Red Kingdom tailgate partner in crime to brother Brian (and sister-in-law Carla, nieces Ashley and Abby, and nephew Andrew); "Son" to father, Kenneth; and ear rubber and sneaker of snacks to his dogs, Bentley and Chief, and his grand-dogs Stella, Dozer, Hazel, and Rowan. Paul was preceded in death by his mother, Shirley.
A memorial will be held on Monday, May 15 at 10 a.m. at Blessing Funeral Home in Mansfield. It will also be broadcast virtually, accessible at blessingfuneralhome.net. In lieu of flowers, Paul's family requests donations to ZERO Prostate Cancer, a foundation dedicated to prostate cancer research, awareness, and support. Donations can be made at Justgiving.com/fundraising/Paul-dowden.
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