Who Was Elsie Ford? How Did Robert Downey Jr.’s Mom Die?

Netflix’s ‘Sr.’ features Robert Downey Sr. and Robert Downey Jr. as the father-son duo tries to tell the life story of the former. Throughout his professional career, he actually created some of the best movies to come from the world of underground filmmaking by simply focusing on his creative passion rather than the money. The documentary even sheds light on some of the most important people in his life, including none other than Elsie Ford. After all, the undeniably talented actress was Downey Sr.’s first wife and Downey Jr.’s mother. Naturally, people are eager to learn more about her and how she passed away. So let’s explore the details, shall we?

Who Was Elsie Ford?

Born on April 11, 1934, in Dormont, Pennsylvania, Elsie Ann Ford was a creative force. While her father was an engineer who’d helped in the construction of the Panama Canal, her mother ran her own jewelry shop in Huntingdon, only for her to drop out of college in the 1950s. That’s because the Scotch-German family’s daughter had decided to pursue her passion for comedy and relocated to New York. There, thanks to the combination of her humor as well as acting skills, she was able to meet many similarly inclined people, including Robert Downey Sr.

Robert Downey Sr (Left) and Elsie Downey (Right)

Elsie and Downey Sr. first met in 1962, just to tie the knot the same year following a proposal by the latter at a Yankees vs. Orioles game. She actually stuck to tradition and thus became Elsie Ann Downey. The couple had their first child, Allyson Downey, in 1963 before going on to welcome Robert Downey Jr. on April 4, 1965. Those who knew Elsie and Downey Sr revealed they’d connected instantly owing to their similar sense of humor and creativity. Actor Larry Wolf even shared in the Netflix documentary that she was one of the most talented, lovable, and sweetest people he had the fortune to meet.

Though they had started a family, working in movies (mostly together) remained the main passion for both Elsie and Downer Sr. In fact, their son claimed he essentially grew up trained to be in the industry as he usually slept to the sound of clapboards since his crib was in the same room as his parents’ work stations. Over the years, the couple created several movies, such as ‘Pound’ and ‘Greaser’s Palace,’ and Robert Downey Jr. was a part of most of these productions. However, things changed in 1975 as Elsie and Downey Sr. parted ways — their marriage had apparently been on the rocks due to work pressure as well as drug consumption.

After this, Elsie was seen in ‘Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,’ only for it to end up being her last paying acting job. A significant reason for the same is that, like many within the underground film industry at the time, she was heavily into the drug culture. Due to financial constraints, she then lived in a 2-room, fifth-floor apartment in Manhattan, which she shared with her boyfriend, Jonas Kerr, who became a paternal figure for her children.

Starting in 1990, though, Elsie decided it was high time to get sober and leave all her addictions behind. She thus went to different treatments and worked hard to be well on her way to recovery. This helped her not only remain a strong presence in her kids’ lives but also guide her son, Downey Jr., to leave the same world of drugs. Eventually, Elsie moved to Los Angeles, California, after her family’s financial conditions improved.

How Did Elsie Ford Die?

Unfortunately, just around the time Elsie had begun her sobering journey, she was reportedly diagnosed with multiple heart diseases. Yet despite the fact that bypasses and other treatments took over most of her days, she was still able to lead an enjoyable life by being surrounded by her family. According to Robert Downey Jr., she actually shared a special bond with his firstborn son, Indio Falconer Downey. It’s even imperative to note that the doctors labeled Elsie a “Medical Incredible” since they were amazed by how well she could do everyday activities.

In March 2014, Elsie had a cardiac arrest and was put on life support. Though, she insisted on being left at her own devices if the chances of her recovery became null. She was ultimately brought home following a set of seizures and put under hospice care. But alas, at 11 PM on September 22, 2014, Elsie passed away and was grieved by friends and family. Following her demise, Robert Downey Jr. wrote a moving tribute for his mother, detailing the highlights of her life and candidly sharing, “She was my role model as an actor, and as a woman who got sober and stayed that way.”

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