US Army Major (retired) Raymond Victor Blanford, son of Joseph and Loretta Blanford, Mishawaka, Indiana cashed in his 9th life on Saturday, October 10th, 2015 and finally won, getting what he’d wanted for so many years. He was 81. Age, sickness and a desire to rest in peace finally won over the strong heart that kept beating, but the body that was failing. He was born and raised in Mishawaka, and attended Indiana University after a stint in the US Army as an enlisted soldier serving in Japan. While there, Ray began a lifelong dance with death after a near fatal airborne jump from military aircraft that he miraculously survived. After leaving the service, he returned to Indiana, where he met his wife and earned his commission in the Army National Guard before volunteering for active duty in the US Army. Ray continued to cheat death repeatedly throughout his lifetime, making his family believe he had 9 lives and might never actually die. It became a family joke, with him conjuring up the next death defying situation he might avoid. He was an officer, and sometimes a gentleman, that served 2 tours of combat as an Infantry Officer in Vietnam where he was shot in the head losing his eye – and cheating death yet again. This act of defiance in the face of death was also an act of heroism, disregarding himself and seeing his men to victory by continuing to command through unfathomable pain. For this he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor. Ray served 17 very honorable years before being medically retired. His first wife, Jacqueline Weiler, followed him faithfully to Army stations near and far and waited anxiously by the phone during his two combat tours and raised four children, mostly on her own. Ray’s second chapter in life found him serving those who served, as a counselor for the Veterans’ Administration, where he met his second wife, Carol and her daughter Meghan. He soon adopted Meghan as his own, while at the same time growing his Pax Mentis counseling service. When he wasn’t saving other veterans who were unable to save themselves, he was busy continuing to defy death by beating colon cancer, heart attacks, throat cancer, and a plummeting ultralight from great heights. One-eyed men with no depth perception shouldn’t fly – but he didn’t care. He was bold in his opinions and actions, and odd in most his ways, but he was a pretty cool dad and loved talking to his children about what was exciting in their lives and often trying to remember his grandchildren’s names. He would spend hours sitting over a cup of coffee with his children late into the night solving the world’s problems and never failed to entertain them with his antics. He spent the last years of his life in his cabin in the woods, aptly named Pax Mentis, surrounded by nothing but nature and his cats, enjoying the quiet and reading voraciously. After he beat the second cancer (life #8), his health began to fail and he moved in with his son, allowing him to feel safe and surrounded by love and his cats as he gently slid down that slope that had no way back up.
He is survived in love and admiration for a life lived fully by his family – son Gregory Blanford, daughter Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Ranay Blanford, and her husband Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Darel Schoening; daughter Stacy Digman and her husband Brian Digman; daughter Lisa Blanford and her husband David Giallombardo and daughter Meghan Blanford. He has 8 grandchildren who have always called him “grandpa with the one eye” – CPL Riley Blanford, USMC, Conor Bell, Elinor Bell, David Schoening, Robbie Digman, Sammy Digman, Bennett Giallombardo and Erin Grontkowski Smith, and 2 great grandchildren Elliot and Tucker.
He was preceded in death by his older sister Dorothy Hintz and is also survived by his sister Kathleen Bradley, brother Kenneth (June) Blanford, and younger sister Toots (Charles) Kulpa.
A special note of thanks to his loving caregiver of 2 years, Sharon Bradley and a recent addition to his loving circle of caregivers her sister, Jamie. The family also gives their thanks to Shirley and Tibisay.
A Memorial Visitation will be held from 3 – 5 pm on Monday, November 2nd in Goethals & Wells Funeral Home, 503 W. 3rd Street, Mishawaka. The Memorial Visitation will conclude with military honors at 5 pm provided by VFW #360 / American Legion #161 Burial Squad.
Memorial donations are suggested to Miller’s Vets, 747 S. Michigan Street, South Bend, IN 46601.
Major Raymond Victor Blanford, hero, will be laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors, surrounded by our nation’s other heroes and honored for all time as he well deserves. Rest in Peace, soldier