Smoker Craft CFO, Joe Blackburn, Passes Away

Ronald Joe Blackburn, 69, CFO of Smoker Craft, passed away on Sunday March 22 at The Maples in Goshen, Indiana.

"Joe had been diagnosed with a very aggressive strain of brain cancer on in October of 2014,' says Smoker Craft President and CEO, Doug Smoker. "He fought a valiant fight, but eventually succumbed to this terrible disease.

"Joe had been a friend and business partner of mine for over 38 years. You don't work together for that period of time and not develop a special bond. It is difficult to understand why these things happen, but as I thought about the entire experience, it is clear there is a message to all of us. I was able to pray with Joe several times and it is clear he was at peace. The strength with which he fought this disease was a lesson for all of us. He loved his family and desperately wanted to see his grandchildren grow up knowing their grandpa. In the end the pain was simply too great, and although the medicine took its toll on his personality he was always filled with that special wit that made Joe, Joe. Ruth, his wife, was an absolute angel through the entire ordeal. Never have I seen a clearer picture of God's love shared during a difficult illness. These two individuals in their special relationship were a shining example of how precious life is and how we should appreciate our family and friends every day. The bond they shared was a true witness on what love truly is meant to be. I hope you will join with me in praying for the family during this difficult time. The entire Smoker Craft family will miss Joe and we are thankful for the time we have had together over these many years.'

Blackburn was born February 6, 1946, in Rochester, Indiana, to James and Wilma (Richey) Blackburn. On June 19, 1965, he married Diana Poehlman, who survives; they later separated and divorced. On January 6, 1979, he married Ruth Yoder, who survives.  Also surviving are his son, Mark (Nicole Bortnick) Blackburn, Chicago, Illinois; his two daughters, Kristin Blackburn, Ann Arbor, Michigan and Michelle (Adam) Van Wagner, Fort Wayne, Indiana;  his four grandchildren, Ethan Van Wagner, Sam Bailey, Zoe Bailey, and Ella Van Wagner; his mother, Wilma Blackburn, Milford, Indiana; and his sister, Susan Blackburn, Warsaw, Indiana. He is preceded in death by his father, James Cooper Blackburn, his brother, Jimmie Blackburn, and his sister, Sandra Walter.

Blackburn grew up in Niles, Michigan, and was a 1964 graduate of Niles High School.  He attended Western Michigan University where he graduated in 1971 with a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree. He earned his CPA certification in 1976. He was employed by Associates Corporation of North America, Coopers and Lybrand, and Centurion Fire and Safety Equipment Corporation prior to his 37 years of employment at Smoker Craft in New Paris, Indiana.

Eventually, Blackburn took on the role of  Executive Vice-President and CFO for Smoker Craft, Starcraft Marine, Smock and EarthWay Products.  As Secretary of the Board of Directors, he was a valued advisor to the Schrock family. He also worked for the late Harold A. Schrock at his other businesses including Goshen Sash and Door, Ivy Terrace and Goshen Iron and Metal. Blackburn oversaw the financial and human resource functions at each of the companies. He led his departments and influenced the culture of the organizations with his sense of humor, as well as his consistently fair, kind and generous nature.  He was highly regarded as not only a manager but a valued mentor and friend to all.

He was a member of Grace United Methodist Church in New Paris, as well as the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants, Indiana CPA Society, Michiana Chapter of Financial Executives International, and a participant in the McGladrey CFO Roundtable.

Fondly remembered in many ways, Blackburn was a respected business man, a devoted husband, an attentive father, a fun grandpa and a lover of animals.  He was blessed with a quick wit that brought smiles and laughter to many.  He enjoyed people and was always eager to strike up a conversation with whomever he met.  His children and grandchildren were his pride and joy, but he also dearly loved his work family at Smoker Craft.

He enjoyed traveling (especially to Hawaii and the Caribbean); he loved the power and serenity of the ocean. He loved to be outdoors, even in the midst of a storm.  He was an avid walker/runner, only missing one day of his 3-3/4 mile goal per day in 24 years. He enjoyed airplanes, Jimmy Buffet music, sunsets on the beach, playing cards, fresh seafood, and a good glass of wine.

Blackburn was especially grateful for the local doctors, nurses, and staff that provided him compassionate care at IU Health Goshen Center for Cancer Care, at the 2 North floor in IU Health Goshen Hospital, and at The Maples in Waterford Crossing. A special thank you also to the Harbor Light Hospice staff.

Friends may call Friday from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. at Yoder-Culp Funeral Home and one hour prior to the 11:00 a.m. funeral service on Saturday at the New Paris Missionary Church. Burial will follow in New Paris Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be given to the American Brain Tumor Association or Riley Children's Foundation.

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