Chuck was born in North Creek, New York. At the age of 9, he accompanied his father, Wes, on a cross-country trip. Their destination was Alaska; however their truck broke down in Klamath. They spent the summer of 1949 on the Klamath River and every summer thereafter. That was the beginning of Chuck’s love for Del Norte County.
Chuck continued excursions with his father and the two eventually ended up in Sharp Park. This time spent with his dad was very impactful for Chuck and the highlights of his coast-to-coast journey are detailed in his autobiographical book, “Kneebockers.” In California, Chuck attended Jefferson High School in Daly City. Later he moved northward, attracted to the North Coast and the many people he met here. This included Dorothea, who he married in 1958. The two soon had three small children: Charlene, Danny, and Lynn. Chuck graduated from Humboldt State University, completing his master’s degree in education in 1961. His young family relocated to Crescent City, where Chuck had his first teaching position at Redwood School. It was not long before his daughter, Angie, was born.
Chuck began his successful tenure as a physical education teacher and coach at Crescent Elk School. Chuck was an innovator who spearheaded unique middle school physical education programs throughout the district, including gymnastics, golf, weightlifting and wrestling. In 1968 he initiated the Crescent City Jaycees Basketball Tournament, which originally included only eight teams. He later led three Cougar teams to tourney championships. In addition, Chuck, in tandem with Principal Don Biggers, facilitated the construction of the Crescent Elk gymnasium in 1974. He eventually transferred to the PE Department at Del Norte High School, where he coached JV basketball. During this time, he married Judy and enjoyed welcoming her children, Jennifer, Becky and John, to his family.
During his summer breaks from teaching, Chuck was a well-known fishing guide on the Klamath River. While most guides used motorboats, Chuck was an oarsman. His signature yell alerted everyone when a salmon was in the boat. His time on the Klamath and the relationships he built there were paramount. Chuck was also an accomplished golfer. Amazingly, he was self-taught. At age 19, he led San Mateo Junior College to the California State Championship by sinking a long putt on the last hole for the winning margin. In addition, he finished third overall in the individual standings out of 20 teams. During his two years as a Lumberjack at HSU, he was undefeated in match play and named Humboldt County Amateur Champion four consecutive years. He earned 11 Club Championships at Del Norte Golf Course before he stopped competing. As Del Norte High golf coach for some 20 years, two of his teams were crowned HDN champions.
Always industrious, Chuck purchased a property in Big Flat on which he spent several summers building a house. This became a labor of love over the next 20 years, as he continued to improve and refine it into a lovely home. Chuck retired from teaching in 1994 but kept his affiliation with athletics as the “Voice of the Warriors,” broadcasting many memorable Del Norte High School football and basketball games for 28 years on KPOD radio. Not a game passed without his voice rising in excitement, “Holy Toledo!” as Chuck always supported and cheered Warrior student-athletes. In addition, Chuck served eight years on the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors where he networked with others to expand the local economy, encourage tourism, and promote the best of Del Norte County. He also endeavored to write a column for the Del Norte Triplicate.
Chuck and Missy met on Sept. 23, 1993 at Big Flat and fell in love that day. John Fraser married them in 1994 at the gazebo overlooking the South Fork of the Smith River. From that moment on, they were inseparable. Both quickly learned the meaning of being married to their best friend. They spent many years traveling to tournaments, broadcasting games together and sharing their love for the community. Together, they had seven wonderful dogs and three llamas and could be seen walking at Big Flat with all animals in tow. With busy work schedules and public appearances, they both sought the solace and peace that Big Flat provided and loved to spend hours down by the river together. Chuck felt lucky to add Missy’s son Matt to his family.
Chuck lived a life of service. He was a mentor and friend to so many people, striving to be a beacon of light, bringing people together to build a stronger community. He dedicated himself to young people, found joy in working with them and always sought to help them realize their potential. He individually greeted each of his students every day with a sincere smile and nod that communicated how much they mattered to him. Beyond the classroom, Chuck was unwavering in championing Del Norte County. He loved his community and always found cause to sing its praises. He adopted Bill Stamps’ motto from the 1964 tsunami, “We can!” and took every opportunity to prove its merit. He was a kind, enthusiastic, dedicated and spiritual man. Whatever the moniker: Chuck, Chub, Dad, Mr. Blackburn, Coach, Friend, he will be missed.
Chuck is survived by his wife of 23 years, Missy Blackburn; brother, Billy Blackburn; children: Charlene (Marla Bartow) Blackburn, Danny (Star) Blackburn, Lynn (Scott) Neilsen, Matt (Desiree’) Starcke, Jennifer (David) Finigan, Becky (Troy) Bohannon and John (Patti) Rycraft; grandchildren: Gina and Tara Bargioni, Shanna Lathrop, Chase, Cole and Bliss Blackburn, and Annette Starcke. A daughter, Angie Lathrop, preceded him in death.
A celebration of Chuck’s life will take place on Saturday March 24, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Elk Valley Rancheria Community Room, 2332 Howland Hill Road, Crescent City. Scholarship contributions are greatly appreciated and may be sent to the Del Norte Scholarship Foundations in Chuck’s name, 301 W. Washington Blvd, Crescent City, CA 95531.
— Submitted by family