Dr. Blackburn was born October 30, 1922 in Smith Center, Kansas, to William Calvin Blackburn and Alice Irene Crammer Blackburn. He had an adventurous childhood growing up in Stuttgart and the Phillipsburg area, and spent his younger days exploring and inventing. While in grade school he was stricken with rheumatoid arthritis and spent months in the hospital. At that time, he decided he might like to become a doctor someday. It was in High School at Phillipsburg that he met and began to date the love of his life Neva Edith Vermillion, who he later married on October 22, 1944.
Robert enlisted in the Army during his freshman year at Ft. Hays College, and was called to Camp Berkley in Texas to train for the army medical company. During that time, the medical school program filled up so fast that he decided to apply to engineering school in Brooklyn College in New York. After one semester Robert was struck with severe rheumatoid arthritis again and was hospitalized for several months. While still in the Army and recuperating from arthritis, he applied for medical school, and was accepted at Kansas University, Nebraska, and Texas Tech. He chose KU, and graduated as a family practitioner with the Class of 1949.
Dr. Blackburn and his wife chose Council Grove as their home, and moved here with baby daughter Teresa in February of 1951. This was just a few months before twin daughters Linda and Rhonda were born and just before the town flooded. Dr. Blackburn told of walking across the higher railroad bridge during the ’51 flood to get vaccinations to school children on the east side of town. He came to town to practice medicine with Dr. Byron Yost, and both doctors joined the practice of Dr. D.E. Miller for the following months. After a couple of years, Dr. Blackburn left to take a year of surgical residency in Albuquerque while a friend, Dr. John Fatland, took over his patient load. Dr. Blackburn then returned to Council Grove with his family, started his own practice, built a house by the hospital, and had a fourth daughter, Annette. He practiced medicine for 37 years until his retirement in 1988. Dr. Blackburn made many house calls in his early practice, and recalled many amusing incidents, without betraying confidences, of course! He also delivered around 1300 babies in Council Grove, and he did many surgeries that nowadays would be transferred to a specialist out of town. Other medical partners through the years were Dr. Jim Davis, Dr. Royal Barker, Dr. James Schultz, Dr. Chuck Allred and Dr. Lora Siegle.
During Robert’s lifetime, he and Edith especially enjoyed being at the lake where family often gathered at their cabin. Sailing was a special passion of Bob’s. Through the years, they made great friends in square dancing, ballroom dancing and bridge groups. They also enjoyed tennis, their pets, and their yard and flower beds. After retirement, they designed and built an earth-berm home overlooking the reservoir, where they could enjoy keeping an eye on the boats and the breeze over the water. At that time, Robert also had more time for hobbies such as painting and woodcarving. As a couple, they worked together to fix up Riverside Apartments along with several other rental houses. His many interests kept Dr. Bob busy and he had a creative solution for any problem presented him.
Robert is preceded in death by his wife Edith in 2012, his son-in-law Steve Adams, his brother Lloyd Blackburn, and his parents. He is survived by one sister, Aris Hinchee, Hawaii, and his daughters Teresa and husband Merle Nelson of Lindsborg, Linda and husband John Cosgrove, Rhonda and husband Darrel Bryant, and Annette Adams. His legacy also includes 16 grandchildren: Maggie (Lucas) Ziegenhirt, Taylor (Molly) Adams, Annie (Nathan) McDiffett of Alta Vista, Sophie Adams, Andrea (Jud) Gladin of Manhattan, Jackie (Adam) Lang of Gardner, Kayla (Luke) Mitchell of Gardner, Kevin Bryant of Manhattan, Monica (Jay) Simecka, Lucas Cosgrove, Natalie (Jeff) Sowers, Jeremy (Sarah) Cosgrove, Scott (Carrie) Nelson of Lindsborg, Craig (Kara) Nelson of Garden Plain, Darren Nelson of Dallas, and Kirk (Hannah) Nelson of Wichita. There are 24 great-grandchildren, with 2 more on the way.
Memorials may be given in Dr. Bob’s name to the Morris County Hospital Foundation which will go towards the Emergency Department Expansion, or to the Council Grove/Dunlap United Methodist Church. Contributions may be sent in care of Zeiner Funeral Home, PO Box 273, Council Grove, KS 66846.
A visitation for family and friends will be held from 4:00 – 6:00pm, Sunday, July 16, 2017, at the Council Grove/Dunlap United Methodist Church. A Celebration of Life Service will be at 10:30am, Monday, July 17th, also to be held at the United Methodist Church. Interment will follow at Greenwood Cemetery.