Edward James Blazek, 88, of Big Sandy died Friday, Feb. 3, 2006, at Big Sandy Medical Center of complications of pneumonia.
Viewing will be 9 a.m. Friday at the Holland & Bonine Funeral Chapel. His funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Big Sandy United Methodist Church. Burial will follow at the Big Sandy Cemetery. A fellowship luncheon will be held immediately after the graveside service at the church.
He was born on March 28, 1917, in Wildrose, N.D., to John Josef “J.J.” Blazek and Marie Emma Vicha. Edward grew up on the family homestead 30 miles southeast of Big Sandy. He attended Tuscania Elementary School near his home through eighth grade and attended Big Sandy High School 1931-1935. He lived in the dormitory and earned his board and room by working as a janitor's assistant. He was proud of the importance of his job, and often reflected on the happiness of his school days and how much respect he had for his teachers. He graduated as salutatorian of his class of 1935.
He played the trumpet during high school and soon joined the dance band of Marvin Osterman and Viola Lohse. They performed at Osterman's Grove. After some time in the band, he began to play the saxophone as a way to rest his lips from the demands of the trumpet and came to enjoy it equally. He loved making and hearing music, dancing, and the fellowship it brought, even if next morning's chores had to be done without sleep.
On July 7, 1945, he married Lillian Rose Petr, a schoolteacher, in Havre.
During World War II, Edward sat on the rationing board. This was the beginning of a long series of public and community service activities. On Oct. 1, 1945, he became a committeeman for the Big Sandy Soil Conservation District, which he continued for over a decade. He then represented Big Sandy as one of three farmers’ committee members of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, continuing to do so until after it became the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service in 1961. He and his neighbors worked with employees of the Rural Electrification Administration to build the power lines that brought electricity to the family farm in 1947. In October 1953, he traveled with the Cattleman's Caravan to Washington, D.C., to lobby for governmental policies favorable to ranchers and farmers. Edward was active in the National Farmer's Union, often serving as delegate to regional and state meetings. For many years, he served on the board of directors of the Farmer's Union Oil Company of Big Sandy. Again working with neighbors, he helped to gravel the roads southeast of Big Sandy in the early and mid-1950s. Edward first served as president of the PTA in 1964, and later served two terms on the school board, presenting both of his sons with their high school diplomas. He concurrently and subsequently served on the board of the Big Sandy Medical Center. He was often the master of ceremonies for school and other community events.
Edward balanced farming and ranching, with a typical herd of 100 cows. In the early 1970s, he sold most of the cattle and broke out the pasture for farming. Between 1971 and 1977, Edward worked as a feeder calf representative for the National Farmers Organization.
A family vacation to Europe in 1980 brought him to his father's home town, Rohozecs, in what is now the Czech Republic. Edward learned Czech at home, and could communicate with little difficulty.
A lifelong Democrat, he nevertheless counted many Republicans as friends and never allowed political opinions to run roughshod over personal relationships. In 1982, Edward was the Democratic candidate for District 13 state representative.
Edward and Lillian purchased a home in Tumwater, Wash., in 1988, where he resided in the colder months. Edward enjoyed fishing trips in Puget Sound and off the coast of Alaska with his Washington friends, and brought them in turn to the family farm for trout fishing and hunting.
Edward moved to the Centennial Lodge in Big Sandy in 2003, where he remained except for brief visits until declining health compelled a move to the Big Sandy Medical Center in July. From September until November, he lived in Bethlehem Woods in LaGrange Park, Ill., near his son Ed Robert. But Big Sandy was his true home, and after savoring the fall colors of the maples and oaks, he asked to return to his roots.
He was preceded in death by his parents; and brother, Joseph Charles.
Survivors include his wife, Lillian of Tumwater; daughter, Elaine of Los Angeles; sons, Ed Robert (Ann) of Chicago and Elliot of Milton-Freewater, Ore.: three grandchildren; one great-grandchild; one niece; and two nephews.
The family is establishing an Edward Blazek Memorial Scholarship for students of Big Sandy High School. Memorials can also be given to the Big Sandy Senior Center.
Services and arrangements have been entrusted to Holland & Bonine Funeral Home.