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Harry Lee Blackburn

Harry Lee Blackburn was taken to his forever home in Heaven on the evening of March 3, 2021. His wife of 38 years, Becky, was able to be with him; and she is so grateful to the Iowa Veterans Home of Marshalltown for making that happen. Harry was cared for very lovingly by the staff of the Veterans Home during the last 11 years of his life where the staff helped him live his best life possible with Multiple Sclerosis. It is a credit to Harry’s positive outlook which endeared him to people and to his faith in Christ that he never uttered a complaint about bearing the cross of MS for 35 years. Upon diagnosis, Harry’s thoughts were this verse from Job 13:15a: Though He slay me, yet will I trust and praise Him.


Harry was born on October 29, 1950 in Des Moines, Iowa. He was the only son of Harry Lawrence Blackburn and his wife Helen Margot (Weise) Blackburn. Harry went to Des Moines schools in his childhood and in 1968 he graduated from Adel High School. In 1970 he enlisted in the Navy during the Vietnam War serving for four years. He continued working in both East Coast and West Coast Naval shipyards during his lifetime as a nuclear marine test pipefitter.


After his enlistment, Harry lived in Napa Valley, California and worked at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. He also went to college for horticulture and became very involved in cycling. He was a member of the Napa Family Bike Club and rode many century and some double century rides. In 1976, he joined a group and cycled across the USA in celebration of the Bicentennial of the USA. Soon after, he went solo to Europe and cycled 4k miles throughout several countries. Harry loved cycling and said he had 29k miles on his legs!


On Easter Sunday, 1980, Harry made a life-changing decision when he accepted Christ as his personal Savior at a church in New Hampshire. A friend had invited him to church and other friends had been praying for his salvation as well. We thank God for Harry’s surrender to Christ and for his friends’ prayers and promptings. Soon, Harry returned to Iowa and began attending Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in West Des Moines with his sister and brother-in-law, Byrd, and Bill Martens. That is where he met his future wife, Becky Schulte. Not too long after, the two were married at the same church on March 26, 1983.


The next day, they were off to Washington State where Harry worked at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. For 15 years, Harry and Becky called Washington State home and they kept busy raising the family of three children born to them there. They enjoyed wonderful church friendships there and traveling throughout the state, with many trips back to Iowa to visit their parents and families.


With daily persistence, determination, and strength from God, Harry, and his family valiantly lived and supported Harry during his life with MS. In 1998, the family returned to Iowa to live near their parents and in February 2010 Harry went to live at the Iowa Veterans Home. The family wants to extend their heartfelt thanks to the staff of the Iowa Veterans Home for their constant vigilance caring for Harry for over a decade. The support of our parents all during this time was crucial as was the great help from other family members who continue to be dearly loved.


Harry is survived by his wife, Rebecca Blackburn, one son, Nathan Blackburn of Ankeny and two daughters, Brittany Blackburn of Ankeny, and Janel (James) Parrott of West Des Moines who have their precious only grandchild, Quinn Lee Parrott. Also, two sisters, Diana Blackburn of Rogers, Arkansas, and Byrd (Bill) Martens of Milford, Michigan, along with many nieces and nephews. Memorials may be given to the family or to Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church.


Visitation will be from 10:00 until service time at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church at 3900 Ashworth Road, West Des Moines, Iowa, on Monday, March 8, 2021. Funeral services will be at 11:00 a.m. also at the church. Burial will be at Memorial Park Cemetery in Mason City, Iowa. Social Distancing and Masks are Mandatory for visitation and funeral.