Don Michael Blackburn
March 7, 1935 – July 27, 2020
Donald Michael Blackburn Sr., 85, passed away on July 27, 2020 in San Antonio, Texas after a lengthy illness. Don was born in Holland, Michigan on March 7, 1935. He was raised in Royal Oak, Michigan and graduated from Royal Oak High School in 1953. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Michigan State University in 1957, and completed post-baccalaureate courses at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. Don was a champion swimmer at both the high school and collegiate levels, earning the Outstanding Varsity Athlete Award at Michigan State University, and narrowly missed qualifying for the U.S. Olympics Swimming Team. In 1954, Don earned his pilot’s license at Big Beaver, Michigan Flight School in 1954 and flew at Longhorn (Stinson Field) in San Antonio. Don honorably served in the U.S. Air Force Air National Guard from 1957-1962. He was stationed for a time at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, and served in active duty during the Berlin Crisis. Don and his wife Joan were married on September 27, 1969 at Alamo Heights Methodist Church in San Antonio. They celebrated 50 years of marriage this past year. Don’s professional career spanned 44 years. Following in his father’s footsteps, Don became an expert in the field of motor controls and drives, and an exceptional problem-solver for his clients. In 1957, he joined his father’s company, Don Blackburn and Co. Electrical Wholesale firm in Detroit, Michigan, then served with Cutler Hammer, Inc. In 1974, he and his wife founded Blackburn Drives and Controls, Inc. in San Antonio, where he served as President and CEO until his retirement in 2002. A bronze plaque displayed at the building’s entrance was dedicated to Don and Joan’s fathers because of their steadfast teaching to always honor honesty, integrity, and the importance of free enterprise. As a visionary of the future use of computers, Don worked with a team of former NASA professionals to fully computerize his company, one of the first small businesses in San Antonio to do so. Don loved his family, his home, and all things “computer,” and he had a compassionate heart for the cause of abused and stray animals. He and his wife worked tirelessly for over 30 years with San Antonio’s veterinarians and shelters to foster strays and to place hundreds of orphaned animals to better lives in loving homes. The late Tom Vice, DVM, a fellow graduate of Michigan State University and life-long friend, worked side by side with Don and Joan in this quest. Dr. Vice often said “Don shows instant love and kindness for these creatures. What better way can I measure a good man? I’m proud to call him my friend.” Don was preceded in death by his parents Don and Gladys Blackburn; his brother and sister-in-law, Bob and Donna Blackburn; and his eldest son, Donald M. Blackburn, Jr. He is survived by his wife Joan of San Antonio; his step-daughter Susan and her husband Dr. Ron Owens of Belton Texas; his son, Jeffery Blackburn and his wife Linda and their two daughters of Austin, Texas; nieces Barbara Blackburn of Chicago; Debbie (Gary) Coleman of Rochester, Michigan; nephews Rob Blackburn (Brenda) of Sterling Heights, Michigan; Bill Blackburn (Carol) of Mio, Michigan; Jon French (Sheryl) of Seattle, Washington; David French of St. Maries, Idaho; and Joe French of Liberty Hill, Washington; and dear friends Dr. Bill Stanley of Rochester, Michigan and Max Ellingson of Placitas, New Mexico. In lieu of memorial service or flowers, to honor Don’s life the family requests memorials to the Animal Defense League of San Antonio, https://adltexas.org/donation/; the San Antonio Humane Society, https://sahumane.org/donate; or a charity of choice.