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John Dowden, beloved community fixture, singing his way back

January 8, 2018 GMT

He was a fixture in the community, riding from store to store on his motorcycle to wash windows and, at times, sing.

Then a crash sidelined him.

Singing John is revved up to return to work and the community but he doesn’t know when.

John Dowden, 73, known as Singing John, was seriously injured in an August motorcycle crash and the Live Oak resident, who lives near the Sutter Buttes, is recovering slowly but surely.

“I want to thank everyone for keeping me in their thoughts and prayers,” Dowden said. “I got cards from so many people – even people that I don’t even know who said they’ve seen me around.”

Since the crash, he’s had a chance to go visit many of the businesses he’d call on but without his trusty motorcycle, which was always loaded with a step ladder and all the equipment needed to make customers’ windows crystal clear.

“I love to work, I’m a people person and I like talking to people,” Dowden said. “They’re my friends, not just my customers.”

His recovery from the crash is a slow process but three community fundraisers have helped pay for medical expenses and hire someone to help care for him a few days a week.

“I still can’t see out of my right eye and my head hurts sometimes but my family is real close and they help come from Princeton to visit and take me places,” he said.

Born in Princeton and raised in Butte City, Bowden attended Princeton High School and started washing cars for people after school, using his motorcycle to get to clients’ homes.

“My mom married a guy from Sutter, so we moved there in 1962 and I started washing windows then,” Dowden said. “On Fridays and Saturdays, I’d go to the drive-in theaters in Yuba City and Marysville and wash people’s windows as they waited in line before the shows.”

He got a Honda Shadow a few months before his crash, but before that motorcycle, he rode a ten-year-old Yamaha Virago, which still runs and has 148,000 miles on it.

“I’ve never owned a car and I’ve owned about 25 to 30 bikes in my life and I ride them until they’re done,” Dowden said. “I’ve ridden bikes all over the country – not as much as I used to but I’ve been all over.”

Dowden got his nickname because he likes to sing and he used to do it professionally.

“I used to sing at country and western bars,” Dowden said. “Now, I like singing gospel music.”

He’s also an avid collector of dice and has some that date back to the 1700s.

“I stared collecting them in the 1950s when I worked at a second hand store,” Dowden said. “Some of them were made with lead in the 1700s and the Indians used deer horns to make dice.”

Dowden even found gear shifters and a plunger that take the form of dice and added those to his collection.

Dowden said he was in a bad motorcycle crash many years ago which damaged his shoulder and his most recent crash wasn’t the first time he’s collided with an animal.

“I hit a deer once while riding and I didn’t even get knocked off the bike,” Dowden said. “I just kept on riding.”

He’s unsure when he’ll be able to ride or work again but is eager to do so.

Dowden has lived with Randy and Laurie Jones for a long time and Randy said the community support has been overwhelming.

“The community really stepped up to raise money to help and that’s been a Godsend,” Jones said. “My wife has done the most – from day one, she was the first one who went down to see him and has spent countless hours on the phone with Medical.”