"There are no
ordinary people..."
C. S. Lewis

James Edmund Blaney

Friday, June 9, 1922
Saturday, June 17, 2017
Orilla, Ontario, Canada

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.

Guestbook Entries

Submitted by Nancy Cullen on

Dear Carol, Helen, and Sisters,

The obituary is beautiful!  Your dad had a wonderful, full life with loving daughters.

Thinking of you,

Nancy Cullen

Submitted by Allen Ihde on

Dear Carol, Hele, and all Jim's Family.

I will always remember Jim, he was one of my best friends.  We had many great times together. Even after Jim moved West we always managed to call or e-mail each other weekly.

Allen Ihde


Submitted by Judy Blaney on

Helen and Family,

What a kind brother-in-law and Uncle Jim was to brother David's famiy.  He was a very special person and we will all remember him fondly.  My son, Todd, especially remembers flying to Detroit from Des Moines with Dave and Jim.  I will miss his phone calls,  God's blessings to all of you.


Submitted by Chip Mathis on

I met Jim at the Saturday Lunch Bunch Group when we met each week at Lutheran Hospital in Des Moines Iowa. Always enjoyed his "stories" he shared with our group. I was delighted when he asked me to send him some Polk County (IOWA) grown POPCORN, lottapop.com  

Submitted by Jill Brooks on

What a treasure Jim Blaney was! He and my dad, Robert Brooks, became the best of friends while stationed in Polebrook, England, during WW II while piloting B-17s. That friendship lasted the rest of their lives. Jim has been a part of my life since I was born in 1951! When my dad died in 1990, Jim called and said, "Jill, I know you don't have a dad now, so I'll be your dad. Call me 'Papa San.' "  I did so the rest of my life. He was the first Santa Claus I ever talked to on the phone! I will miss the sound of his voice on the phone when he called and said, "Ol' Blaney here just checking in!" I can't remember a time when my mom Anita and Helen were not close and saw each other as much as possible. Helen and the girls, my heart is with you now. I pray God's grace and comfort rest on each of you as you walk through the days ahead. Godspeed, Flyboy Blaney. I will miss you - but I'll see you again one day. Love, Daughter #5 - Jill Brooks

Submitted by Sheryl Hove on

Helen and family,

Jim will surely be missed . When they were in Des Moines all the kids from CHCC called him grandpa and he loved every minute of it . He used to take the kids for rides in the rummble seat car , i can still hear the laughter from all. Jim was a wonderful and faithfull man.

Sorry for your loss , jim is where he liked to be up in the clouds.

love and prayers to all Sheryl Hove and family from CHCC Des moines, iowa

Submitted by Larry L Miller on

Sorry to hear about Jim, I used to fly with Jim in his aircoupe. Sincere condolences, Larry Miller former Club Treasurer NFFC.

Submitted by Carrie West on

I am sorry not to have met Jim Blaney but I certainly heard alot of funny stories about him from his daughter, Ruth.  He sounded like a treat to behold!  My condolences to his entire family.  Sending big hugs,  Carrie West

Submitted by Margaret Tungseth on

What a wonderful obituary!  I Know of Jim from hearing about him from daughter, Donna.  How full of life and giving to others.  My condolences to the family.

Submitted by Peggy Gordon on

My sympathies to all the family. I did meet Jim through the Washington Pilots Association but didn't realize until I saw his obituary that I am a relative of his. I wish I had known this great man better while I had the chance.


Submitted by Patty Maiers on

Sending prayers of sympathy and comfort  to your family. I was always grateful for his investment in kids - always teaching, supporting, teasing, including, listening, sharing and caring. My kids always looked forward to seeing Jim on Sunday morning at Capitol Hill...and then maybe lunch or a plane ride!  Jim always made time for the children. Thank you Jim....well done good and faithful servant❤️

Submitted by Roberta Breeding on

Many fond memories of Jim and the Blaney family, as I grew up in their rural Des Moines neighborhood where I "baby sat" the girls and attended the same church.  Jim was "one of a kind" - always entertaining, sincere, and friend to all.  He will be missed...

Submitted by David Miller on

I became acquainted with Jim in Airport Toastmasters Club.  He was awe inspiring with the number and variety of activities and interests that he actively pursued.  From memorizing Gunga Din to flying airplanes.  His obituary could have been many times longer.  The day he allowed us to look through his flight log from WWII helped me partially understand what he and his generation did for their country. Then followed by years of service to community for the rest of his long life.  An example to us all.

Condolences to his family. 



Submitted by Sandy McLaughli... on

My condolences to Helen and the family. My mom could always count on Jim & Helen for her insurance needs. She considered them both to be true friends, as well.

Submitted by Meghan (Maiers)... on

I will never forget the countless Dragon House and flying sundays my siblings and I had with Jim after church. He will forever live in my memory.

Submitted by Laura Duffield ... on

So many fond memories of Jim and Helen and family. They were card/cribbage playing friends with my parents; I'm sure big bowls of homemade ice cream were involved at times. Jim gave me my one and only plane ride way back when. Helen insists she taught me how to sew. Prayers and sympathy to all. Altoona sure misses their presence.

Submitted by Gale Herrera on

My heart is heavy because this world lost a lovely man. They just don't make them like that...I'm not sure "they" ever did make more than one! He was special.  When I was helping in the fabric store, Jim was always passing through...on the go....not letting the grass grow under his feet. If things got hectic, he was a great fabric cutter! Reading his obituary made me feel deficient. I feel like I need to "get up and get going".  He was INSPIRATIONAL.  Jim and Helen have been greatly missed in Altoona. Visits from "the girls" and seeing the grandchildren growing up have been missed also. Quilting classes in the basement at their place were SO MUCH FUN and it was great to have Jim's billiard table to lay our quilts on.  My tea room, Olde Town Antiques and Tea Room was across the street from their place. Helen even came over some Saturday afternoons and helped wash dishes! Those years were some of my most fun ones with them. All that I can end this message with is that my heart is hurting today. Helen is so practical, and since I see that he was in hospice, I know she is at peace for he is no longer sick and suffering. That is her practical brain at work. Her heart is is a different matter.  Marriage for 73 years????  We cannot imagine what her heart is feeling. My prayers are with you Helen, and the "girls" and their "children". As Laura Duffield said, Altoona sure misses your presence and now Bellinham, WA will miss Jim terribly.

Submitted by Mark & Terry Wenthe on

Dear Helen and Family,

We send our sympathy to you all, and know Jim's death will leave quite a void!!  Terry remembers so fondly her days working in the Altoona Fabric Shop with Helen.  Both Helen and Jim always treated her so kindly.  We also still call that home on Hubbell "Blaney's Place" when we drive by.  And of course we can still see Jim traveling around town in his old car.  May God bless you all and grant you peace and wisdom as you deal with your loss.  We send you hope, faith, and our love❣️ Mark & Terry Wenthe


Submitted by David Lien on

Dear Helen and Family,

I can't remember a time when I didn't know the Blaney family. We all went to the same church in Altoona and Donna Sue and I both went to the same high school.  We all sorta grew up together as our parents were good friends for many years.  I remember when the house on Hubbell was new and so was the swimming pool! Jim and Helen raised a great family and I was privileged to know them for many years.  My mom, Kathy and I send you all our love and prayers.

David, Kathy, and Joan Lien



Submitted by Judy Parsons on

Dear Helen, so sorry to hereabout Jim's passing.  He was Larry's scout leader and even took Larry on a flight once.  He was a wonderful man and very special to so many. Thinking of you and your family during this time.Judy

Submitted by Judy Parsons on

Dear Helen, so sorry to hereabout Jim's passing.  He was Larry's scout leader and even took Larry on a flight once.  He was a wonderful man and very special to so many. Thinking of you and your family during this time.Judy

Submitted by Robert Clark on

Dear Helen and Family.

I first met Jim when I called to inquire of the cost of aircraft insurance as I was considering resuming flying which I learned in high school, but had not pursued through college and Med School. He not only helped me with that issue, he introduced me to the North Field Flying club the following Friday, and we were members together for decades. He inspired me to what a good life should be.


Bob Clark 

Submitted by Diane Walker Mc... on

Dear Helen and Gail, I am so sorry to read of the passing of your husband/father.  He lived a very long and fulfilled life.  I learned a lot about him just reading this that I didn't know about him.  Helen, my Mom, Joy Walker Larson passed away 1/13/2015. She had dementia and an enlarged heart.  We believe that her heart just gave out that morning.  Just wanted you to know.  Gail, I haven't seen you since high school, but I remember good times together playing when we were young.  Prayers and hugs for you and the rest of your family during this difficult time.  Sincerely, Diane

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