Norman Ray Blankenship, 87, passed away of natural causes on October 23, 2023. Born in the small coal mining town of Davin, West Virginia, he was the 6th of 10 children born to James Cloyd Blankenship, and Corby Cleo Trent Blankenship. He was a handsome, friendly youngster, a star speller, good in mathematics, whom everyone knew as “Pal”, rather than Norm.
He aspired for a life beyond the Appalachian coal fields. Upon completion of high school, he joined the Air Force as an enlisted young airman. His family had not even owned a car, but suddenly he was on an airplane to Hawaii, his first posting. He was in the Air Force before he used a telephone for the first time. He recalled trying a strange food called “shrimp” for the first time in Hawaii. It was a period of great excitement and growth. At the end of his enlisted service period, he became the first in his family to ever attend college, grasped the incredible opportunity provided by his GI Bill benefits, and graduated from West Virginia State University in Morgantown.
He met and married fellow West Virginian Florence Sibray Blankenship at WVU. Together they raised 3 children; Lori Kincaid (Reid), Paige Gartner (John), and Trent Caswell (Becky), living in a variety of postings around the world as an Air Force Officer, including favorites; the United Kingdom, Hawaii, and Virginia.
After a successful career as an Air Force officer for over 20 years, he worked for the Virginia Department of Transportation as a Manpower Analyst for almost 15 years. He married Sadie Barber Smith, and together they raised a daughter, also named Sadie Smith (Dylan), in Yorktown, Virginia, and then Farmington, Maine. Ultimately, he settled in the Richmond, Virginia area, to be close to family.
He truly valued higher education, had earned his MA, and strongly encouraged his own children and grandchildren to seek advanced degrees. His only other sibling to complete college, Sue Cobler, also credits his relentless encouragement with her successful career.
He ran a marathon. He loved all birds, and was especially fond of wild turkeys, many paintings of which decorated his home. Norm still relished a good bowl of pinto beans and cornbread, which he recalled he ate 5-6 days a week growing up in rural West Virginia. He was an incredibly generous man and had a great sense of humor. He loved to loudly sing bible hymns, and Elvis songs in the car, much to the chagrin of teenaged grandchildren riding along. He would dance in front of the television, blocking everyone’s view and eliciting laughter. He will be remembered for his good nature, his joking, upbeat outlook on life. Most of all, he loved his children.
He leaves behind 4 children and their spouses, his adoring sister, Sue, and sister-in-law, Becky, along with 12 grandchildren, ranging in age from 1 year to 30 years old, several of whom share his middle name Ray/Rae. He is missed tremendously.
Services will be held at a date to be announced later at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia.