Leo Blackwell Jr.
Published 10:18 am Tuesday, January 26, 2016
June 2, 1934 — Jan. 16, 2016
Leo H. Blackwell, Jr., 81, passed away very peacefully, at home, on Jan. 16, 2016.
During his final week he was cheered by the presence of his wife and children and kept comfortable through the services of Hospice at Home.
Leo was born June 2, 1934, in Austin, Texas to Alice Ruth (Blasdel) and Leo Herman Blackwell, Sr. He grew up in Austin, graduating from Austin High School in 1952 and the University of Texas in 1955, with a B.A. in zoology. (He was always quick to point out that, when he graduated, there were no branches, so it was “The University” — not “The University at Austin.”) He moved to Houston, where he worked at M.D. Anderson hospital in a job that would probably now be called nuclear medical technology. Intrigued by all he was learning there, he decided to continue his education. After obtaining his M.A. in 1960 at North Texas State College (now University of North Texas) in Denton, he went on to earn his Ph.D. in Physiology at Michigan State University in 1964, after completing his dissertation research at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois.
Leo’s professional career began at the University of Tennessee Medical Units in
Memphis, where he taught medical, dental and nursing students, radiology residents and graduate students in physiology, served as Radiation Safety Officer for the Medical Units and the City Hospital. He served on several university committees, played a significant role in improving the catalog and rose to the rank of full professor. In 1978 he was recruited to theUniversity of Detroit School of Dentistry, where he taught for the remainder of his career, serving on numerous committees and as the University’s Radiation Safety Officer, ensuring compliance with federal and state laws.
While at Argonne, Leo met June Wagner and they married on 18 May 1963. Married 52 years, they have three children and loved traveling together. He officially retired in 2001 and in 2005 he and June moved from Chesterfield Township in Macomb County, Michigan, where they had lived for 27 years, to the cottage his wife’s paternal grandparents had built in the early 1920s on Indian Lake in southwest Michigan. Leo and June frequently drove all over the country to visit their children and families, cousins and friends, as well as historic sights, museums, and state and national parks.
They hosted family reunions in 2002 and 2012 and celebrated their 50th anniversary in Alaska in 2013. They especially enjoyed their two trips to Alaska, which involved driving through extensive areas of Canada, exploring most of the areas in Alaska that connected with Canadian roads and taking advantage of the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system to get to isolated areas, such as Juneau and Sitka, and for traveling via the Inside Passage between Alaska and Prince Rupert, British Columbia, providing marvelous views of mountains
and glaciers as well as whales and other wildlife along the way.
Of all his accomplishments, Leo was most proud of having obtained his Eagle Scout
Award (when only 15 years old) and Order of the Arrow, as a member of the Boy Scouts of America. While in high school, he learned the printing trade, which he later pursued as a hobby with his Chandler & Price platen printing press. In Memphis, he served as President of the congregation of the First Unitarian Church of the River. His skills ranged from carpentry to mechanics. He actively participated in the extensive renovations required to convert the small lake cottage to a year-round home. And, notably, he restored his wife’s 1963 Chevy II Nova convertible to an “almost new” condition.
Leo was a life-long member of the Blaisdell Family National Association, attending
national reunions in 1950, 2010, and 2015, in addition to local annual reunions of his Lt. Jacob Blasdel branch of the family in Dearborn County, Indiana. In 2011, after the unexpected resignation of the prior Editor of the Blaisdell Papers, which has been published twice a year since the organization was founded in 1935, Leo agreed to complete the Editor’s term, serving as Editor for Volume 16, Issues 2 through 10. Despite failing health, he successfully completed publication of the final issue for December 2015.
Leo’s family and friends especially valued his culinary skills, home brewing and wine making. But most treasured were the wonderful conversations and discussions, covering his diverse interests and knowledge. A granddaughter expressed this succinctly: “A man of fewer words than most but all of them have substance.”
About a year ago, Leo announced that he would not spend another winter here at Indian Lake. A trip was planned for this winter, driving to California and then the southern states, returning home by the time ice was disappearing from the lake. But by late October, Leo recognized that he was not well enough for the stress of such extensive travel. Instead, he found another way to leave. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.
Leo was predeceased by his parents. He is survived by his wife, June Blackwell of Eau Claire, Michigan; children, Leslie Alane (Danny) Maginn of Little Rock, Arkansas; Scott Blasdel Blackwell of Macomb, Michigan; Laurel Lynn (Tim) Casper of Eureka, California; and nine grandchildren, Riley Sean, Maddison, MollieKate, MaryMargaret, Michael Reese “Reese,” and Robert Ross “Ross,” Maginn; Zachary Blasdel Blackwell; Colin James and Erin Jean Casper.Starks Clark Chapel in Dowagiac, Michigan is in charge of arrangements. A memorial service will be held during the summer of 2016.
Some time in the future, with family present, his ashes will be scattered among the bluebonnets in Texas, in honor of his request. Contributions made in his memory to Hospice at Home, a Lakeland Health Affiliate; the First Unitarian Church of the River in Memphis, Tennessee; the Blaisdell Family National Association; M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston, Texas; our local Beckwith Theatre in Dowagiac, Michigan or any other worthy cause will be appreciated.