Gardening 12

Lillian Lorraine Blackburn

April 11, 1925 ~ March 17, 2020 (age 94)

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Lillian “Lorraine” Blackburn passed away peacefully in her home on March 17, 2020 just shy of 95 years old.  Because of the Corona Pandemic, we will postpone a memorial service until after social distancing has been lifted.  She would want us to wait until it is safe for her many friends and family.  Lorraine will be laid to rest with her son, David, at Ft. Logan National Cemetery on March 24, 2020 with family close by. Please sign our guest book and comfort our hearts by contributing your favorite memories and pictures of Lorraine.  Her story is not complete without your input.  She treasured all of her friends and family.


Lorraine was predeceased by her two sisters Rose Martin and Ruth O'Connell and her two brothers Don Palik and John Palik.   She was born April 11, 1925 in Prescott, Iowa To Barbara and Arthur Palik and raised in Denver, Colorado where she met and married her love of nearly 77 years, Denny R. Blackburn on June 29, 1943.  Their love story is legendary.  She was only 16 when Denny was in Denver as a dashing young enlistee.  Lorraine's mother, Barbara, had met this “nice young man” at the Denver Serviceman's Center where she served coffee and refreshments to servicemen and young ladies gathered for dancing and entertainment.  Lorraine was too young to be there as a dance partner, so her mother brought her there to help in the back, scrubbing pots and pans... and to meet this nice young man.  She wasn't too young to date outside the center though, and Denny took her to the Rainbow Ballroom.  While walking home in the snow that night she slipped her lipstick in his overcoat pocket to guarantee she would see him again.  They courted by mail and she even cut school to see him at the train station in Denver where he had an hour layover on the way through town.  When he attempted to pop the question she said, “Yes! Yes!” before he could even get the question out.  As a bride of only 6 months, she bravely held down the home front as Denny fought in WWII serving as bombardier aboard a B-26 Marauder. 


Faith and family were central to Lorraine who prayed often for all of the family. She would tell you that it was through her prayers that Denny returned safely home to her, after almost two years of fighting.  Their war-time marriage was only a few months in when he had to leave for combat duties over France and Germany.  As they moved from station to station in his 30 years of service in the Air Force she plugged into a church and made their house a home as fully as if they planned to stay there indefinitely.  Some of the places they called home were: Denver, Mountain Home Arkansas, Biloxi, Wichita, Waco, Japan, Dayton, California, Virginia, and for the past 47 years, Cocoa Beach.  She still has friends from many of those places where she was a beautiful example of a loving wife and mother.  People throughout the family and community have admired the longevity and sweetness of their love for one another. The strength of such love cannot be fully explored without acknowledging the hard times through which they chose to stay together.


 After the war it was hard for anyone to find a job, but Lorraine stuck by Denny as they struggled to make ends meet.  Among other hardships they lived on Denny's brother's “resort in the making” in little more than a lean-to and tent with two young boys.  Lorraine also suffered two miscarriages and years later they lost their eldest son in Vietnam. Her secrets of a long happy marriage can be viewed in this interview she participated in at this website . Lorraine always said marriage was work and staying in love in hard times was a choice.  “We hardly ever pass each other without a hug, a kiss, or a pat.  You've got to keep it going.  Realize there are going to be hardships and disagreements, but think back to why you married them and you will make it through it.  It's so much sweeter when you get to the other side.” They were often seen walking or sitting hand in hand.  They played golf together, traveled the world together, raised purple martins together, gardened together (well Denny broke the ground for her and built her “playhouse” where wonderful things happened to plants), and sat together with a glass of wine on their patio swing as the breeze from the ocean cooled the Florida evenings.


There is a beauty to that evening glass of wine when the day's work is done that is mirrored in a life so well-lived as hers.  She looked over the finished tasks of loving her family and community well.  She had five children: David Ray Blackburn, a helicopter pilot who was killed in Vietnam, Michael Reid Blackburn (Edith), of San Diego, CA, Cora Christine Girard (Greg), of Nokesville, VA, Jennifer Ruth Bowman (Doug) of Black Mountain, NC, and Daniel Quintin Blackburn (Janice)  formerly of Hampton, VA now living in Cocoa Beach, FL.  Her twenty grandchildren are Stdrovia, Sumire, Sacha, Lindy, Bonnie, Lillian, John, Eric, Andrew, Krista, Kaylea, Keri, Kassidy, Raya, Kevin, Lorraine, Jeremy, Andi, Suzanna, and Dani.  She also has thirty-one great grandchildren, Sade, Talon, Kellen, Ashle, Haven, Nikki, Natalie, Ethan, Christian, Lauryn, Aubrey, Liam, Sean, Ryleigh, Joshua, Ellis, Jeremiah, Lauren, Jaedon, Gabriel, Kimber Tyler, Raedyn, Tristan, Scarlet, Sophia, Vivienne, Beaux, Benjamin, Colbie, Oakley, and one great grandchild due this summer.  She was known for making their gatherings very special.  With so many grandchildren and some great grandchildren visiting she would decorate a special place for them with a theme such as an army encampment complete with footlockers and cots for the boys and a Little Mermaid theme for the girls complete with fish hanging on the sea-green tulle hung about the room. 


Lorraine was known for her hospitality and many were invited to enjoy gatherings in her home. She made wonderful lemon meringue pie with homemade crusts. She also invested in her community through Meals on Wheels which she delivered for 30 years even to people younger than herself as she moved up in years.  She was a member of First United Methodist Church of Cocoa Beach for over 50 years.  She was often the driving force behind contemporary worship and new ways of reaching out to the community.  She held circle meetings in her home, participated with the United Methodist Women, and contributed to the church committees in almost every capacity.  Even in the last year she and Denny, and 98 and 94, participated in packing meals for the local children's backpack program for children who otherwise would have little to eat over the weekend.  Neighbors have commented that as soon as they moved into the neighborhood she would be over to introduce herself and welcome them to the community.  She was very kind and always seemed to know what to say or do to put others at ease.  In her younger years she looked well after her neighbors as they aged often acting as nurse or looking after their affairs when they were hospitalized.  She always had a gentle and quiet spirit about her.


Lorraine was an avid gardener raising vegetables and flowers wherever she lived.  Neighbors have commented on how well she kept her yard and how often they happened by when she was out there weeding. Even in these later years she still bent from her wheelchair to pull another weed and tended plants in raised boxes. She shared her knowledge and love of plants with anyone who was interested. While Denny used to quote, “In a wheat field, a rose is a weed- even if that rose is voluptuous and vibrant,” but Lorraine would have had her family clear some space around the rosebush to permit it to flourish.  After all, there are many more stalks of wheat so a few would not be missed.  She was a great friend to the birds and other critters as she gardened.  The Blue Jays would come to get peanuts from her feeder as she stood only feet away and the lizards and frogs would listen closely while she told them they were welcome to her garden.  She raised canaries, parakeets, and cockatiels along with being landlord to a noisy colony of purple martins who came early this year to sing and chatter to her in her final days. 


Lorraine loved music and played the piano, sang in the church choir, and directed and played in the handbell choir, and encouraged her children and grandchildren to become proficient with an instrument.  She was wonderfully creative with flower arranging, sewing, home decorating and reupholstering antique furniture.


Lorraine was a bundle of energy most of her life even if she had to take an afternoon nap to recharge her battery.  But these last few years, she found her body unable to keep up with her ambition.  She became injured from falls sustaining a broken nose, kneecaps, and femur.  Even those could not keep her down.  She would heal and rebuild her strength and begrudgingly use the walker as she was encouraged to do, to get around.  She was always cheerful and singing.  In the mornings she would often start her day singing, “Oh what a beautiful morning. Oh what a beautiful day.  I've got a wonderful feeling... everything's going my way!”  In those final days life became like riding a bike into the wind; every pump of the pedals an effort. I almost think I could hear her singing to Jesus, “Come get me! Come get me!  I'm through!”  She had squeezed out every bit of life that she could and went home satisfied and happy having left behind a beautiful legacy.



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