Barbara Blackburn was the reason Walt, Max and I moved to Jerome, Arizona. Greg Driver called today to say she had ‘passed.’
Barbara came to Jerome, AZ when she left San Francisco in the arms of Dean, who was ‘throwing’ tires—vernacular for someone who repaired them. He was a handsome con man who convinced Barbara he was a talented photographer. She sold her home, bought a little travel trailer, some photo equipment for him, and off they went, landing in Sedona some months after, the money gone up their noses in a lot of cocaine.
A Sedona bartender told her she should look into Jerome. The first day in Jerome, Barbara put $15,000, the last of her money, into buying the Old Bakery and adjacent duplex, where she lived while she began to remodel the old Bakery building. It took her another six months or so to get rid of Dean.
We arrived in Jerome at 5 a.m. No cars on Main Street. No people. No sun. No nada. We’re dead-tired, think to catch a ‘motel’ in Clarkdale, which was a empty as Jerome. Turn around to explore Jerome’s ramshackle, twisty streets, for some sign of where Barbara might live. And after about ten minutes we notice a ‘NoTurkeys’ sign in a window.
Barbara greets us with a big smile and a joint. It’s nonstop party for the next three days with the hippies of Jerome. We were enchanted and totally exhausted by the time we left. Barbara invited us to stay with her when we moved.
A Magnanimous Dual Personality
Barbara was the only person I knew who had a dual personality that she successfully kept together for years and years in San Francisco and Jerome: a banker/CEO/financial wizard by day and at night, a hippie that drank, smoke and dropped LSD, only to show up in straight work clothes the next day for whatever job she held. She was magnanimous, welcoming, and inclusive to all she met, ready with a smile, cup of coffee, a joint, a meal.
She became CEO for John McNerney’s Jerome Instrument Corporation, and helped propel it into a four million dollar business. Her special gift was knowing how to make a workplace easy for people to be in
Barbara’s Acid Punch
She had a gift for making instant friends and weaving them into her life. She was a great hostess and her Bakery home became party central, for any occasion, for any friend that visited.
She was known for her acid (LSD) punch, a special for parties. Two very memorable ones were a JIC company party down at the river and a Valentines Party to commemorate a new office Barbara and I shared.
4 cans large Frozen Pink Lemonade
2 quarts gingerale
2 quarts club soda
2 bottles cheap champagne
1/2 gallon raspberry sherbert
100 hits of acid
The Great Outdoors
Many of our friends will tell you about rafting and backpacking with Barbara into many wildernesses. But our personal favorite was a ten-day backpack down Red Canyon in the Grand Canyon, with Walt and Greg Driver, to whom she was married for ten years. We hiked in the early morning hours; found a shaded cubbyholes to hide in during the heat of the day, played bridge, smoked joint after joint, and yes, dropped acid.
Would love if readers of this memorial would share favorite stories in the ‘comments’ section.
The Jerome Defense Fund
Barbara, Sue Kinsella and I formed “The Jerome Defense Fund” association and solicited donations for defendants of the Big Bust of 1985 to help them pay bail bond and legal fees. We held regular meetings, attended by many of those accused and their friends, and it became something between an information conduit and outlet for grief. We held a benefit dance, called Jail House Rock, with the help of 127 volunteers (twenty-seven of them musicians).
The Main Street stores, without exception, and many artists, made contributions for the large raffle that was held at the dance. We raised over $4,500 and split it among the defendants that needed money, including those who did not live in Jerome. Although it made a very small dent in what amounted to more than $75,000 in legal fees, the heart and solidarity behind it meant a great deal to the defendants.
Barbara left Jerome the way she came in to it, in the arms of a con man that she met in a bar in Baja California. He claimed he was wealthy and owned a helicopter company in Tahoe that removed old growth trees. He had a special gift for cutting her off from her friends. John McNerney commented that he didn’t know any wealthy guys who had bad teeth.What was amazing was that Barbara didn’t find out just how strange he was until two years later when she got a phone call from the cops in Colorado who had arrested him with a car stolen from a dealership in Cottonwood, which he presented to her as a gift.
Last Communication: June 2016
“I have changed my life recently – moved from the mountains of Colorado to a more hospitable climate and one I could afford to live in: Albuquerque. The medical services and doctors I can get here are wonderful and I am so in need.
Have had 4 stents placed -2 in femoral arteries and 2 in main aorta but yet have I have pulmonary arterial disease and congestive heart failure- both of which will not be corrected –- “too much damage not enough benefit “- have bought a sweet little home here in the old residential section of Albuquerque – and no snow! Am on oxygen 24/7 and will always be – just trying to get my self strong enough to walk more than ¼ block… it is a different life for me – but as an 82 year old said to me recently “at my age you do one day at a time” ……. damn smoking finally took its toll
It’s been nice remembering the good days in Jerome. Greg Driver called a couple of days ago – just to say hello – that was sweet.
Think of you and Walter often – hope life is still good in Oregon….hugs and kisses to you both.”