Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

John Phillip Blackburn Dec. 4, 1932 - Feb. 16, 2014 He Went from Campus to Acting in Spite of Heart Issues

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

John Phillip Blackburn Dec. 4, 1932 - Feb. 16, 2014 He Went from Campus to Acting in Spite of Heart Issues

Article excerpt

After two open-heart surgeries, one might be expected to take it easy.

Not Jack Blackburn. With a pacemaker dictating his heartbeat, he continued his tennis hobby, playing several times a week.

He reveled in the sport's camaraderie and competitiveness, refusing to lay down his tennis racket until he turned 80.

John "Jack" Phillip Blackburn of Wexford died on Sunday of congestive heart failure, an illness he fought for three decades. He was 81.

During his childhood in Allison Park, Mr. Blackburn struggled with a stutter, but conquered it by taking singing lessons -- showing a persistence that marked him throughout his life, family members said.

"Every accomplishment you make, no matter how small, gives you more self-confidence," Mr. Blackburn would say, according to his wife, Kathleen Blackburn.

When he graduated from high school, Mr. Blackburn wasn't sure what he wanted to do. An advertisement he received in the mail led him to become a student at Duff's Business Institute, where he studied accounting.

He then set off on a career managing the finances of universities, working as assistant to the controller at Duquesne University for more than 20 years.

Mr. Blackburn had the meticulous nature of an accountant, chiding his wife for being 28 cents off when she balanced her checkbook.

His family often spent days at the beach in Ocean City, N.J., and when they left he would show his diligence by picking up each of his six children one by one, dipping their feet in the ocean, and carrying them to the car, to make sure no sand found its way to the floor, his daughter Lisa Hall said.

He had a tendency to look at the bright side of things, family and friends say, and was a passionate churchgoer.

"Wherever we went, he wanted to know how to get to the church," Mrs. Blackburn said.

Mr. Blackburn's cheerfulness sometimes went too far, leading him to dole out more one-liners than those around him might have liked. …

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