James Edmund Blaney
James Edmund (Jim) Blaney was born June 9, 1922, in Orillia, Ontario, Canada, to Elsie Annie Hazell Blaney and James Vernon Blaney “Vernon,” and passed away at the age of 95 on June 17, 2017, surrounded by family.
Jim was born to fly. He had his first flying lesson at age 16, and joined the Army Air Corps at age 19, was accepted into pilot training, and became a B-17 bomber pilot based in Polebrook, England, flying 37 missions in seven months, becoming squadron leader and first lieutenant. Jim continued flying throughout his life, owning six of his own aircraft. He was licensed as a pilot from 1939-2013. He incorporated his love of flying into his insurance business, specializing in aircraft insurance as a licensed insurance agent from 1946-2010. One of his most memorable adventures was flying his own plane to Cape Canaveral to watch several Apollo launches at the invitation of one of the astronauts.
When he was 6, Jim moved to Detroit, Michigan, with his family, moving later to Dearborn, Michigan. In Dearborn, singing in a church choir, Jim spotted a cute girl, Helen McClure, also singing in the choir. On April 20, 1944, Jim and Helen began their 73-year marriage in Dearborn, moving to Des Moines, Iowa, in 1950, where he began his own insurance agency, and where they lived for 60 years before resettling in Bellingham, Washington. In Bellingham Jim continued flying, loved to go for lunch with the “Fly Boys,” explore the area, walk along Boulevard Park, visit with other retired pilots, participate in Rotary, VFW, and dress up as Santa at Christmas time.
Jim was independent, curious and active, and he dedicated his life to serving others. When his daughters were growing up, he was an Explorer Scout leader, taking his scouts on many kayak and canoe trips on Iowa rivers. He was on the school board for the local school district, and was a grassroots organizer for SE Polk school consolidation, holding the first meeting to form the new consolidated school district in the basement of the Blaney home. He loved to take his daughters on hikes to unknown destinations (often along an abandoned interurban right-of-way), whistling bird calls, and identifying trees by their leaves and bark!
He served in many organizations including being a 50-year member of Masonic Lodge (past Master), Eastern Star (past Patron), member of Consistory, Shriner, American Legion, VFW, Rotary (perfect attendance for 40 years), founding member of the Des Moines Toastmasters, Northfield Flying Club, Goodwill Industries Board member (1954-2010) and President Emeritus. He was active in various activities at his church including as an Elder, board member, teacher, choir member , and visitor to many when they were hospitalized, often taking them communion. Jim loved to play Cribbage and ping pong. He loved music, especially Big Band era music and Blue Grass. He played trombone, including in the Army Air Corps band, sang in the Des Moines Chorale Society, and learned to play guitar at age 65! He loved to travel anywhere, and especially close to his heart was his annual pilgrimage to his “homeland,” Coldwater, Ontario, Canada to visit his relatives and familiar places.
Jim will be missed by his wife Helen, of 73 years, four daughters: Ruth Blaney (Eric Matthews) Bainbridge Island, Donna Blaney Johnson (Randy) St. Paul, MN, Carol Blaney (Ron Blokker) Bellingham, Gail Blaney Aurand (Joel) O’Fallon, MO; his nine grandchildren: Jonah Rapp; Eve Johnson Brafford (Michael), Evan Johnson, Reed Johnson; Calla Martin, Natalie Martin; Kelsey Aurand DeRazo (Mario), Bethany Aurand Murray (Jack), Charis Aurand; and four great grandsons: Diego, Miguel and Octavio Razo; Oskar James Blaney Brafford.
In lieu of flowers, you may make donations in Jim’s name to Rotary Club of Whatcom County North, P.O. Box 188, Ferndale, WA 98248; First Christian Church, 495 E. Bakerview, Bellingham, WA 98226. The family express great gratitude to Hospice of Whatcom County for their gracious, tender, careful attention in the last few weeks of Jim’s life.