Howard H. "Jiggs" Blanck, a businessman and public servant who possessed what seemed to be an inexhaustible knowledge about his hometown of Brainerd, died Tuesday morning at St. Cloud Hospital.
Blanck, 73, was currently serving on the Brainerd Parks and Recreation Board (since 2004) and the county's transportation committee, but his previous service on governmental bodies includes the Brainerd City Council (1974-1979), the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Commission (one stint as a council member and then later from 1982-1986), Brainerd Transportation Committee (1989 to 2001) and the Brainerd Charter Commission (1993-2000).
While on the city council Blanck served as president and his colleagues remembered him for being prepared and concerned about what was best for Brainerd.
"Jiggs always kept you on your toes," Brainerd City Council member Mary Koep said. "He was always prepared and he understood the subject. Sometimes he had a rather unique perspective but you had to be prepared with your own.
"He was a fun person to work with. He always kept his sense of humor but he never backed down. When the meeting was over you could go ahead and chat like the best of friends."
Blanck suffered from colon cancer in recent years but Koep admired his determination in the face of adversity.
"He was such a fighter," she said. "I honestly thought he might beat this. If there's anybody on this planet who can beat it, it's Jiggs."
Koep said Blanck brought passion and enthusiasm to all of his endeavors and she speculated that Blanck's mindset in that respect may very well be continuing.
"I have no doubt he's up there now kind of organizing things," she said. "He made his mark. He left his place in this city."
Mayor James Wallin served on the city council with Blanck, but also attended Zion Lutheran Church with him for more than 50 years. Wallin said they made an effort to talk about city issues at the Monday night meetings rather than on Sunday.
"There were times when he said 'I need to talk to you,' but we did not do it in church, for the most part," Wallin said. "He had a very positive attitude. He wasn't down. He was always more upbeat. He had a sense of humor and he loved to laugh."
Koep remembered that he frequently talked about his family and his love for them was apparent.
Bob Olson, a Brainerd City Council member, said Blanck was outgoing, an accomplished Brainerd historian and was an asset to the community.
"Jiggs was a very dedicated city council member and he always did his research and came to meetings prepared," Olson said. "Jiggs was a strong-willed person and there were times there were disagreements, but in the long run I enjoyed working with Jiggs. He loved Brainerd."
His brothers, Duane and Gerry Blanck, said they thought their father, Howard A. Blanck was a role model for Jiggs Blanck. Their father served on the city council from 1949-51 and from 1954-57. Their father was also active in the PTA and their church.
The Blanck family's roots here date back to the 1880s, they said, when an ancestor homesteaded in the St. Mathias area.
Blanck was a charter member of the Brainerd High School Distinguished Achievement Hall of Fame Selection Committee, a supporter of Brainerd High School and University of Minnesota athletics and had been a chair of the Camp Confidence Celebrity Classic. The north Brainerd resident was a longtime election judge and a member of the Brainerd Public Schools Foundation. He was an U.S. Army veteran and he attended Brainerd Junior College. While in the Army, Duane Blanck said his brother was the personal aide to the commanding general in Fort Hood, Texas.
"He was an active participant," Duane Blanck said of his brother. "He certainly had a sense of community."
Gerry Blanck of Brainerd remembered his brother for his generous spirit.
"He'd give you the shirt off his back," he said. "If you needed something, he'd be there."
Blanck's work experience included time as circulation consultant in Kansas, Missouri, Indiana and Crookston, Duane Blanck said. He was a publisher of the Walker Pilot, Cass County Independent and the Crow Wing Review. Blanck worked for about 10 years as business manager of the Brainerd Dispatch. In recent years Blanck worked in specialty advertising.
Terry McCollough, publisher of the Brainerd Dispatch, and a fellow member of the BHS Distinguished Achievement Hall of Fame Committee, said Blanck brought a lot to the table when it was time to pick hall of fame members.
"There was hardly anything or anybody Jiggs didn't know," McCollough said.
Brainerd Superintendent Steve Razidlo spoke Tuesday at the School Board Facilities Committee meeting about Blanck and his role as a strong and longtime school supporter.
Razidlo said that Blanck was a charter member of the Brainerd Public Schools Foundation and a proud member of Washington High School's Class of 1954.
Razidlo said Blanck attended every BHS senior banquet to award the Class of 1954's scholarship to a graduating senior.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to these folks," Razidlo said of Blanck's family. "He represents the type of fiber from the community that we are leaning on in times like this and we are really sad at his passing."
Arrangements are pending with the Halvorson-Johnson Funeral Home in Brainerd.
MIKE O'ROURKE may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5860.
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