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James Paul Blackburn, age 88, of Wilmington, DE and Ocean City, NJ, passed away on Saturday, January 5, 2019 at the Heartland Hospice House.
He was born on the East Side in Wilmington, DE on June 15, 1930, son of the late Beatrice D. Blackburn and Willis Blackburn. He graduated from St. Mary’s school and went on to graduate from Salesianum High School. He went to work for General Motors until he proudly joined the Wilmington Fire Department.
His passion for the Wilmington Fire Department was surpassed only by his love of family and faith. Jim was a member of the Wilmington, Delaware Fire Department [WFD] for over 28 years, the last eight years as the department's Fire Chief. He rose through the ranks of Lieutenant, Captain, Assistant Chief, Deputy Chief, and Acting Chief. From the start of his tenure as Fire Chief, Jim's goal was to modernize the WFD by completely reorganizing its structure. He started by implementing new written administrative procedures and policies [e.g., Chain of Command, Rules and Regulations, etc.]. In addition, Jim received approval from the city to purchase hand-held radios for fire suppression officers [none were provided before] and to replace the fire fighters' outdated fire gear [e.g., canvas coats and metal helmets] with Nomex coats and Philadelphia helmets. He also received approval to replace five existing 100 year-old fire stations with modern one story fire stations, and obtained approval from the city to purchase new fire apparatus to replace fire apparatus that were in service for over 30 years.
After his retirement from WFD, he went on to be Vice President of Building Operations for The Concord Group, and Director of Facilities for Buccini Pollin Group, until his retirement in 2008.
Jim was very proud of his Irish heritage. He was instrumental in the purchase of the building which now houses the New Castle County Irish Society. He was Vice President of the New Castle County Irish Society, Chairman of the Building Committee, the Election Committee, the Board of Directors and recipient of the 1997 Erin Award. He was also a member of the Eastern Chiefs Association, member of the Cumberland Valley Firemen’s Association and member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. He was a member of the Wilmington Men of Malvern for over 25 years. He was inducted into the Legends Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010. He was an avid Notre Dame fan and loved his time in Ocean City, New Jersey and Sanibel Island, Florida.
In addition to his parents, James was predeceased by his brother, Robert and his brother-in-law James Skilling. He is survived by his wife of 68 years Anne (Reader); his daughters, Patti Ptomey (Tom) of Hockessin, and Karen Blackburn of Wilmington; his two grandchildren, Bryan (Michelle) Davis, and Alyssa Ptomey of Wilmington; and the lights of his life, his two great-grandchildren, Layla Ptomey and Bennett Davis; as well as his sister-in-law, Marie Skilling.
Jim’s family would especially like to thank Heartland Hospice for their wonderful attention and care.
Family and friends are invited to visit at the Doherty Funeral Home, 3200 Limestone Road, Wilmington, DE 19808 on Sunday, January 13, 2019 from 3:00 – 5:00pm. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10:30am on Monday, January 14, 2019 at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, 4th and Bancroft Streets, Wilmington, DE 19805. Interment will follow in All Saints Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Jim’s memory can be made to Heartland Hospice, 256 Chapman Road, Suite 102, Newark, DE 19702.