When the picture of an overall-clad John Blanton appeared in our paper last Friday as part of a memorial tribute to the long-time educator and county commissioner, it reminded us yet again of the kind, endearing man who touched hearts and evoked laughter everywhere he went.
His passing just over a week ago has left us saddened at the loss, one that we and this county have experienced, a loss that, while as subtle as Blanton himself was, will be felt for a long time to come. You see, quite truthfully, they don’t make ‘em like John Blanton that much any more.
A gentle man with a big heart, Blanton could be both fierce and kind, often at the same time. He was fierce in his defense of right, whether it was insisting a student pull up their drooping jeans, even if it meant attaching some tobacco twine to the fabric, or imploring his fellow government leaders to find a way to help sometimes overlooked areas of the county, like Ivanhoe or Kerr Station.
His softer side could be seen in the way he dealt with youngsters and even teenagers in his charge when he served as assistant principal and principal of schools across Sampson, or in how he dealt with county staff, people he greatly respected for the jobs they did to serve others. He showed that respect, too, in the way he treated other individuals, living by the Biblical reference of loving his neighbor and doing so far more in deed than just in word.
He was a prankster, too, a man with an easy laugh and a willingness to go along with a joke, particularly if it meant bringing a smile to someone’s face and especially if it gave him the opportunity to laugh at himself. Always humble and never one to take himself too seriously, Blanton had a love of life that was infectious and a mischievous laugh that beckoned those within earshot to come in closer and join the fun. It was, without question, a pure joy to be around him.
John Blanton was also a man of service. A proud veteran who served multiple tours in Vietnam as a member of the U.S. Army, the long-time Roseboro resident used his military upbringing to set an example. As a principal, he ran a tight ship, but he never expected more from his students or staff than he gave himself.
As a commissioner, both for Sampson County and as a member of the Roseboro Town Board, Blanton was also about service, always in favor of doing anything that would make Sampson a better place for residents. He worked diligently on the N.C. 24 widening project a few years back, concerned that endangered woodpeckers might be the holdup for what he believed was a needed expansion. He was also a huge supporter of the Western District Park, something he believed was greatly needed for the Roseboro area. And he rolled up his shirtsleeves and helped on those and many other projects, never afraid to do his part and more for whatever cause was at hand.
He loved Sampson County and he showed it in myriad ways through decades of service.
But he reserved his greatest love for wife Ellen and their family. He was proud of them all and showed it at every turn. Ellen was the light of his life, the strong woman who supported his efforts and encouraged him in every endeavor, and he gave her all the credit for all his own successes.
That was just the kind of man John Blanton was, the kind whose example deserves to be followed now, even after his passing. He’s left a remarkable legacy, one those who knew him, or even knew of him, won’t soon forget.