Rena V. Blackburn

April 5, 1930June 7, 2021

Rena V. Blackburn, of Winter Haven, Florida, entered the embrace of heaven on Monday, June 7, 2021.

Rena was born to J.R. & Flora Varner in Worth County, Georgia on April 5, 1930. She was the fifth of 10 children. Gospel music filled the house of the Varner family. J.R. wrote some of gospel music’s most beloved hymns, and Rena’s brother, Wally, would go on to become a sought-after pianist for some of southern gospel’s most famous groups. With that background, it’s no surprise that one of Rena’s great loves was gospel music.

She also grew up with a deep love and dedication to family that would impact so many throughout the course of her life. Most of all, she loved the Lord Jesus, and was dedicated to her Lord and her faith. Rena loved to sing about His goodness in church and at home.

Her family moved to Winter Haven, Florida when Rena was young, and she attended school there until just days after her 17th birthday, when she married John M. Blackburn. She and John were an industrious couple right from the start, working at the Bordo Citrus Packing Plant, and then starting a chicken farm. In 1955, their young family experienced a tragic fire in which they lost everything. But, they squared their shoulders and began rebuilding. With the backbone of a true entrepreneur, this event was the springboard for them to begin a new business, Blackburn’s Meat Market and Feed, which was a Winter Haven staple until 1990. The couple then started a trucking company.

During those years, John and Rena raised six children with a strong work ethic and a strong faith in the Lord Jesus; a faith that has resulted in an incredibly vibrant extended family with 12 grandchildren, 26 great grandchildren and two great great grandchildren. “Grandmother,” as she was called by the family, would often dispense pearls of wisdom and encouragement, phrases like, “You can’t do wrong and get by,” or “I wouldn’t trade you for nothing.”

Her home was a busy one, filled with love and laughter, not to mention lots of kids and grandkids, and something was always cooking. Rena was an amazing cook, whipping up southern meals that were lovingly prepared, including her famous biscuits. And, Rena loved to laugh. As family would gather around, the joy and fellowship they shared would carry them through any challenge that they faced.

As the years progressed, and her health began to decline, the one thing that never waned was her love for Jesus. Rena would continually call His name, and, even to her last days, she was still able to sing and harmonize about her love for the Lord. The family would say that, though she is in heaven with the Lord, she is also “forever in our hearts.”

Rena Blackburn is preceded in death by her parents, Mr. & Mrs. J.R. Varner, her husband, John M. Blackburn, and eight siblings.

She is survived by her sister, Marcille Touchston of Tampa, her children, Rev. M. Wayne Blackburn (Sharon) of Lakeland, Priscilla Martin (Ray) of Winter Haven, Lamar Blackburn (Paula) of Lake Wales, Karen Butler (John) of Winter Haven, Gina Hancock of Newnan, Georgia, and John A. Blackburn of Winter Haven, plus, 12 grandchildren, 26 great grandchildren, two great great grandchildren, numerous nieces and nephews, and other family members.

A Memorial Service will be held Sunday, June 13, at 3 pm, at Victory Church, 1401 Griffin Road, Lakeland. Visitation will be immediately prior to the service, from 2-3 pm.


  • Visitation

    Sunday, June 13, 2021

  • Funeral Service

    Sunday, June 13, 2021


Rena V. Blackburn

have a memory or condolence to add?

Carol Overbey

June 14, 2021

I met Aunt Rena Blackburn a couple of times in my life. I met Wayne and Priscilla. They seemed like nice people to me. Sunday morning was interesting. I woke-up and praised the Lord. I heard a multitude of heavenly host praising God. I thought, "They are welcoming Rena Blackburn into the arms of her Lord." It was a special morning. I thought of the accomplishments of her family and children. I agreed with the jubilant praises and shouts of victory. I thought , "Rena Blackburn is triumphantly entering heaven's gates with a great procession of worshipers and many witnesses." I was encouraged and reminded of God's faithfulness to every generation of those who love Him. I hope you joined-in praising God as one of the worshipers and many witnesses.

Betty Boyt

June 10, 2021

To Ms. Rena,s family...we are so glad we came to meet and love this very special lady. She captured our hearts and made us feel like we had known her forever. I especially came to love her like my own. She was much like my own mother to me and in fact sometimes I called her mama. I surely will miss seeing her at Gina's house. I will certainly miss her visits and her presence. Go rest high Ms. Rena...we love you.