School 22

Russell J. Blank

October 2, 1924 ~ March 9, 2022 (age 97)

Obituary

Russell J. Blank

Of the Wisconsin Veterans Home, formerly of Wausau, age 97, passed away on Wednesday, March 9, 2022. He was born in Kankakee, Illinois on October 2, 1924 to the late Fred H and Valeria (Beland) Blank.

In addition to his parents he was preceded in death by his wife, Helen, daughter, Elizabeth and his brother Roy and sisters, Margaret Vickery, Phyliss Vickery, and Patricia Harms.

He will be missed by his children: Diane (Tom Gollnick) DeWan, Annette (Gary) Benaszeski, Karl (Debra) Blank, Paula (Al) Rhoades, son-in-law: Bill Speakman, grandchildren and great grandchildren:

Dad is a veteran of WWII, where he enlisted at the age of 17 (with parental consent). He was trained and served as a radio-man (Morse code) and a sonar-man. His first assignment was on the submarine USS Haddo SS255. On one deployment they spotted a German U boat on the surface , firing it's deck gun. The captain lowered the periscope and plotted an intercept course but there was no further contact. Later on the surface ship, (USS Griffin AS13) deployed near the Philippines, on one occasion he saw action all around and over him as the Japanese attacked combat ships. He said they focused on ships with guns showing, not antenna. At the end of the war he was discharged within 14 months re-enlisted this time in the Army in the CIC (counter intelligence corps, investigator) being discharged in 1953. At this point he has 3 children another in 1954 and another in 1955. So with Mom and 5 children he decides to go to college to major in English, Latin, and German. He completes three majors in 3 years, wow. We asked why these majors, he answered that is what they said was needed. Later he completed his 20 years of military service in the National Guard, final rank 1st Sergeant.

Dad both loved teaching and was loved as a teacher, mentor and coach, he provided inspiration to many students, family and friends over the years. High school provided a steady stream of young minds, and a continuous extended family which he served as teacher of English and Latin. He also was a sponsor of student council and Latin Club. To this day 35 years after retirement, when his old students hear the name Blank they ask if our Dad was Russell, upon which they tell us how much they loved him and were inspired by him as a teacher. In addition to routine English classes he also taught a special English class called Industrial English, we will leave it to the students of that course to tell their many interesting stories.

Each of us has many faces over the course of a lifetime, for Russell he was, a son, brother, father, husband, a sailor, soldier, employee, mechanic, union labor representative, teacher, mentor, coach, a thinker (cogito ergo sum- I think therefore I am) his motto, a philosopher, a strong advocate for family values, fidelity, marital commitment and having lots of kids, a dreamer, his superpowers were: (procrastination, articulate relentless arguer of nearly any topic, frugality, virtues of stoicism, the ability to sleep on command), a lecturer, volunteer, friend, a hunter, loaded ammunition, collected skunk scent, fisherman, maker of fly fishing lures, piano tuner, harmonica player, maker of oboe reeds, maker of strong wine and consumer of the same, a spreader of Bull manure, maker of funny faces etc. ...

Late in life, while at the King VA home , Dad worked on listening skills, empathy, accentuating the positive, and keeping Lewy Body at bay. He received great tender care and made new friendships as well.

Each of us that have bonded with Dad, over the years, have been changed for the better, as did he. We feel fortunate to have had the 97 ½ year journey.

I once asked Dad why he had 5 children, he jokingly answered: "Because out of five I thought I would get at least one good one!" But clearly he lucked out and got 5 good ones.


 

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