Robert Downey Jr. Pays Tribute to His Late Mother, Elsie

The actor wrote a touching letter about how she helped get him clean and sober.

ByABC News
September 29, 2014, 11:17 AM
Robert Downey Jr. and his mom attend his hand-and-footprint ceremony held in conjunction with the film "Sherlock Holmes" at Grauman's Chinese Theatre Dec. 7, 2009, in Hollywood.
Robert Downey Jr. and his mom attend his hand-and-footprint ceremony held in conjunction with the film "Sherlock Holmes" at Grauman's Chinese Theatre Dec. 7, 2009, in Hollywood.
Michael Tran/Getty Images

— -- "Iron Man" star Robert Downey Jr. lost his mother Elsie Ann Downey last week and the actor took to Facebook to pay tribute.

"I wanna say something about her life, and a generic 'obit' won't suffice," he wrote of the late 80-year-old. "Elsie Ann Ford was born outside Pittsburgh in April of 1934, daughter of an engineer who worked on the Panama Canal, and mother who ran a jewelry shop in Huntingdon, where they settled ... a bona fide 'Daughter Of The American Revolution.'"

He continued, "In the mid '50s, she dropped out of college and headed to NY, with dreams of becoming a comedienne. In '62, she met my dad, (who proposed at a Yankees/Orioles game). They married, had my sister Allyson in '63 and me in '65... There was another "revolution" of sorts going on at that time, of underground counter-culture film and theatre...and with her as Bob Sr's muse, they jumped in wholeheartedly."

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Downey Jr. added that by the 1970s, his mother got caught up in the "drug culture" and that she "was an alcoholic."

"As the marriage suffered, she continued to work, but not for long. A recurring role on "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" ('76-'77) was her last paying job...not that she cared, she'd have done it for free," he added. "I remember living with her and her boyfriend Jonas, (who became a second father to me) in a 2 room 5 story walk up in Manhattan after that...Bunsen burner for a stove, cockroaches, broken dreams...By 1990, she'd had enough, went to treatment, got sober. Just in time to enjoy several decades of heart disease, bypasses, you name it."

The actor, 49, added that he too could relate to the addiction he faced and that in 2004, "I was in bad shape."

"She called me out of the blue, and I admitted everything. I don't remember what she said, but I haven't drank or used since," he wrote. "Eventually, when finances allowed, we were able to move her out to LA. She had a special affinity for my firstborn son Indio, and really got a kick out of Exton ... Many fond memories of her in the last few years...holidays, kid-stuff, her strutting around with a walking stick. I knew it was difficult, and understood as the visits got shorter."

Downey's mother was put on life support in March after a cardiac arrest.

"I returned from filming the ‘Avengers’ sequel in June, went straight to see her," he added. "To my amazement, she was completely lucid, interactive, mugging + pulling faces. We couldn't speak 'cause she had a tracheal tube. I wondered if she might just beat the odds once more. Another set of seizures answered that, and we brought her home for hospice."

Downey Jr. lost his mother at 11 p.m. last Monday.

"She was my role model as an actor, and as a woman who got sober and stayed that way. She was also reclusive, self-deprecating, a stoic Scotch-German rural Pennsylvanian, a ball buster, stubborn, and happy to hold a grudge," he added. "My ambition, tenacity, loyalty, "moods," grandiosity, occasional passive aggression, and my faith.... That's all her...and I wouldn't have it any other way."