BLAFORD, BARBARA VIRGILINE (GRAY), 99, passed away 29 Sep 2021, in Tipton, IA. She was born on the Gray family farm near the town of Allerton, IL in Vermillion County to Paul Harmon Gray and Edna Pearl (Blaisdell) Gray.
Barbara attended a one room school just down the road from the farm. She completed the course work for third and fourth grade in one year and advanced to fifth grade the next school year. In late grade school the family moved to Urbana, IL where she graduated from Urbana High School in 1939. Her brother Paul Gray bought her a coronet; it was life changing. She was the only female in the Urbana High School Marching Band in the brass section. In 1939, at the age of 16, the marching band qualified to compete in the last national competition of high school in Ohio and won the competition. The band also competed in several regional competitions. After high school, she played coronet in an all-women's dance band. She also played in the University of Illinois summer band.
A USO dance at the Women's Building (now the English Building) on the University of Illinois campus on 05 Dec 1941 changed the course of her life when she met Corporal John Stanley Blaford from nearby Chanute Air Base. Corporal Blaford was lined up on one side of the gym with all the men and Barbara was lined up on the other side of gym with all the women. The men and women met in the middle, and that was your dance partner for that song. Corporal Blaford counted down the women's line to see who he would be paired with. He decided that he wanted a different partner and switched places with another man. It was fate, his partner for that dance was Barbara and she became his partner in life. Two days after their first dance, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The Nation was changed and so were the lives of many civilians and service men. They were married in the Methodist Church in Scottville, MI 07 May 1942 and this marriage endured 74 years. Corporal Blaford was in the Army Air Corp for four more years after their marriage. Barbara followed John's duty stations around the country during the war. They lived in Urbana, IL, Kansas City, MO, and Stockton, CA. After the war, they moved back to Champaign, IL, where Barbara anchored their family life. A life dedicated to the family and their wellbeing. Barbara and John moved to Michigan in the early 1950's and then back to Champaign in 1959, where they lived for the next 47 years. After retirement John and Barbara traveled, camped, and hiked many parks throughout Canada and 49 of the 50 states except Hawaii. They moved to Tipton, IA to be close to their daughter, Bonnie Blaford 16 years ago.
Music, gardening, and Scrabble were an important part of Barbara's life. In fact, she was very competitive when playing Scrabble. She enjoyed playing the piano and coronet until her 98th year. She acquired a wide variety of music from CDs and cassettes, and recorded songs off the radio on to cassette tapes. She enjoyed family sings around the fireplace at home and campgrounds over the years, and dancing with her sweetheart. They even made the front page of the local paper dancing the polka. Barbara was a lifetime knitter making sweaters, afghans, mittens and hats, doll clothes and Christmas ornaments. She spent many hours sewing clothes for family and creating special dolls and doll clothes for her granddaughters and making breads, desserts, homemade churned ice creams and sherbets, and a variety of candies for family and friends.
She is predeceased by her husband John Stanley Blaford; son Gary John Blaford, and son-in-law Dennis Weeks. Barbara is survived by children Bonnie Blaford, Shana Rose (Blaford) Weeks, Steven (Sharon) Blaford and daughter-in-law Judith Ann (Klehr) Blaford; grandchildren Molly Elaine (Blaford) McLaughlin, Erica Pearl (Alessandro) Bellini, Kerensa Alayne (Tom) Brougham, and Devon Schabot (David) Pace; great grandchildren Joshua and Genevieve Brougham, Anneka and Jacob McLaughlin, and Giovanni Enrico Bellini. Burial will be at the Grandview Cemetery, Champaign County, IL (half way between Champaign and Mahomet). In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to the Tipton Community Schools, Band Department, 400 E 6th St, Tipton, IA 52772 because of Barbara’s great love of music that started in high school; or memorials can be made to your favorite “no kill” animal shelter.
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