Long before the advent of Facebook and e-mail and before the term "social networking" was commonplace, Howard H. "Jiggs" Blanck was connected to the people and city he loved. To say that "everyone in town knew Jiggs," might be an overstatement - but not much of one.
Few people were as closely linked to the city of Brainerd as Blanck, who died Tuesday morning. The number of city committees he served on in the course of his 73 years was very likely a record. They ranged from the higher profile Brainerd City Council and the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Commission to the positions that were less glamorous - the Brainerd Parks and Recreation Board and the Brainerd Charter Commission. City officials sometimes have to beg and plead to fill slots on these committees, but Blanck was always willing to step up and serve his community.
Though he was strong-willed and opinionated, Blanck listened to others and sought common ground. He wanted Brainerd to move forward. He wanted its high school athletes to succeed. He gave the impression of a man who couldn't understand why a person wouldn't be an active booster of the Brainerd area. Blanck was a booster in the best sense of the word. His love for all things Brainerd was strong and sincere.
Two city council members who were asked to remember Blanck's time on the council used identical phrases: "Jiggs kept people on their toes." In other words he wasn't afraid to challenge his colleagues in a good-natured spirit.
Every city should have the support of a "Jiggs" Blanck. Brainerd was fortunate to have him in its corner.
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