George Thomas LaBlonde Jr.
November 6, 2021
MARQUETTE, Mich. - George Thomas LaBlonde Jr., age 83, of Marquette, died peacefully at home Friday night, Oct. 29, 2021, following a long and courageous battle with pulmonary fibrosis while under the loving care of his family and U.P. Home Health & Hospice.
George was born in Ironwood, on Oct. 17, 1938, to the late George T. and Florine D. (Taglienti) LaBlonde Sr. George was a lifetime resident of Ironwood until retiring from active duty with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a colonel with more than 30 years of selfless and distinguished service on June 30, 1990, when he and his wife, Sharon, relocated to Marquette.
George graduated from Luther L. Wright High School in 1956 and from Michigan College of Mining and Technology in 1960 with a bachelor's degree in mining engineering while also receiving a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He also earned a master's degree in engineering (construction) from Purdue University in 1965. He was a graduate of the U.S. Army Engineer Officers Basic Course and Advanced Course, the Engineer Officers Instructor Training Course, the Engineer Officers Contracting Course, the Engineer Officers Facilitates Course, the Department of Defense (DOD) Language Institute (Vietnamese), the Army Command and General Staff College (CGSC), and the U.S. Army War College.
His assignments included one tour of duty in West Germany as a platoon leader, company executive officer, company commander, and assistant operations and training officer in the 10th Engineer Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) and two tours of duty in the Republic of South Vietnam as an engineer advisor: the first one as a captain with the 21st Engineer Battalion, 21st Infantry Division, Army of the Republic of South Vietnam (ARVN), in the Mekong Delta and the second one as a major with the Engineer Advisory Staff, Military Assistance Command Vietnam, to the Chief of Engineers, ARVN in Saigon. Between the Vietnam tours, he served as an assistant professor of military science, Army ROTC Department, at Michigan Technological University (MTU) for three years. His main duties during this period consisted of being the second in command of the department, the principal instructor for engineering and leadership subjects for the Junior Year cadets, the cadre advisor for K Company of the 16th Regiment of the Honor Society of Scabbard & Blade, and the cadre advisor to the Karl Hanson Student Post of the Society of American Military Engineers. In addition, he served as the president of the MTU Faculty and Staff Association for the 1969-1970 school year and secretary of the Faculty and Staff Bowling League for two years. He was honored for his distinguished service to the university and its students by induction into MTU's Phi Kappa Phi Chapter in 1970. Following graduation from CGSC, he became the deputy district engineer of the St. Paul District, North Central Division, where he assumed responsibilities for civil works functions in the state of Minnesota and parts of North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, Upper Michigan, and Iowa, as well as for the Mississippi River from its headwaters in Minnesota to Lock and Dam No. 10 at Gothenburg, Iowa. His next assignment was to ARMISH MAG in Tehran, Iran, as the Foreign Military Sales/Military Assistance Property Program Advisor to the Imperial Iranian Army. This was followed by a promotion to lieutenant colonel and reassignment to the ARMISH MAG staff as the engineer advisor to the chief of ARMISH MAG and the chief of engineers for the Supreme Commander's Staff of the Imperial Iranian Armed Forces. Upon returning to the United States, George served in the Facilities Engineering Division, Office of the Chief of Engineers in Washington, D.C. and the in the Pentagon as an engineer staff officer. His greatest accomplishment in this position was as the Army's staff representative on a Joint Staff effort that successfully rewrote the DOD Directive 1315.6, Engineer Support to the Air Force Overseas.
He later commanded the 52nd Engineer Battalion (Combat Heavy), 43rd Support Group, from September 1978 to April 1981 and then assumed the position of director of engineering and housing, Fort Carson, Colorado, and 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized), Colorado, prior to attending the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, in September 1982. He followed this tour of duty with an assignment as senior Army advisor to the Adjutant General, Pennsylvania National Guard at Fort Indiantown Gap prior to assuming command of the U.S. Army Engineer School Brigade at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, where he was responsible for leading, training, caring for and maintaining six diverse battalions consisting of 5,600 soldiers and their equipment. His last tour of duty was as the deputy division commander/chief of staff and division engineer for civil works, Missouri River Division, Omaha, Nebraska, where he coordinated water resources development and emergency operations throughout the 529,000 square mile Missouri River basin, one-sixth of the area of the "lower 48." In addition, he oversaw hazardous and toxic waste design and remedial action projects throughout the United States.
His decorations and awards include the Legion of Merit Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster), Bronze Star Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster), Meritorious Service Medal (with three Oak Leaf Clusters), Air Medal (with Numeral "2"), Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal (with "V" Device), the Parachute Badge, and numerous others lessor awards.
George married his high school sweetheart, Sharon Ann Wright, on June 13, 1959, at the Westley Methodist Church in Ironwood. They were blessed with their first child, a baby girl, on June 26, 1960, who they named Margo Sue. A second child, a boy, was born in Würzburg, West Germany, on Jan. 16, 1962, who was named George Thomas III. George and Sharon celebrated 62 years of marriage on June 13, 2021.
Following his retirement from the Army, George was employed by United Services Insurance Company as a licensed health and life insurance agent in the states of Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as a registered investment representative with the National Association of Security Dealers from July 1990 to September 1995. In early November 1992, he was elected treasurer of the Charter Township of Marquette and assumed his duties as such in late November. Following the successful collection of the 1992 real and personal property taxes in mid-April 1993, he resigned his position to become Marquette Township's manager. On July 1, 1997, he resigned this township position to pursue other career opportunities. In early September 1997, he accepted a position with the newly incorporated Superior Extrusion Inc. (SEI). His principal duty was to assist the DeBolt brothers, Randy and Myron, in converting their dream to a vision and that vision to a reality. This was accomplished in mid-December 1998, with the first successful extrusion of a solid aluminum shape. While employed full time at SEI, he held various positions ranging from project manager to director of administration and engineering to director of administration and human resources. In addition, he served as SEI's corporate secretary and a Board of Directors member. He retired from full-time employment on Dec. 31, 2003, while remaining active as the corporate secretary and Board of Director member. Over the ensuing years, George returned numerous times to participate in SEI's expansions and other activities.
He was a member of Salem Lutheran Church in Ironwood prior to transferring his membership to Redeemer Lutheran Church in Marquette, a Life Member of the Elks with prior memberships in Elks Lodges in Hancock and Ironwood, and currently in Marquette; a former member of K.I. Sawyer Fox Run Golf Course and Heritage Golf & Country Club, a past member of the Marquette Rotary Club where he was a Paul Harris Fellow, a past member of the White Bear VFW Post, a past member of the Hancock American Legion Post and current member of the Marquette American Legion Post 44, a Life Member of Marquette County Veterans Alliance, a Life Member of Marquette County Chapter 22, Disabled American Veterans, a Life Member of Military Officers Association of America, and a longtime volunteer at the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans. George and Sharon spent the winters in Arizona where they golfed and also enjoyed playing bridge in Marquette and Arizona.
He is survived by his loving wife, Sharon; daughter, Margo LaBlonde Carli (Robert); and son, George T. LaBlonde III, all of Marquette. Also surviving are his brother, Thomas J. LaBlonde, of Phoenix, Arizona, and a sister, Kay Arlene General, of Jacksonville, Florida; and five grandchildren: Marcus Carli (Lauren) of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Robyn Carli Roell (Kevin) of Marquette, Ryan Carli of Memphis, Tennessee, George LaBlonde IV of Madison, Wisconsin, Chantel LaBlonde of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, and a very special member to our family, Reza Karamooz of Henderson, Nevada. He was blessed to welcome his first great-grandchild, Nash Thomas Roell of Marquette, on July 18, 2021. He was preceded in death by a brother, Gene James LaBlonde in 1944; and his parents, George and Florine LaBlonde.
His greatest love was his wife and family. He was an instrumental part of their lives and took immense pride in their accomplishments. Two of his most cherished and memorable moments of his life were his boat parade "Passing in Review" onboard the Relentless Pursuit at the conclusion of the Lake Superior South Shore Fishing Association's annual Veterans Fishing Day on Sept. 23, 2016, and his Honor Flight, Mission XIII, on Sept. 27, 2017, to Washington, D.C., with his son. These two events made his 30 years of active-duty service, including his two tours in Vietnam, worth his sacrifices and commitment to Duty, Honor and Country.
The family would like to thank Dr. Steven Danek, Dr. Arthur Saari, Dr. John Bartlett, Laura Leckelt NP., and the staff at the Marquette CBOC. We would also like to thank Joe and his staff at the Great Lakes Medical Center and Angels at U.P. Home Health & Hospice for their care and compassion.
George's family will greet relatives and friends on Saturday, Nov. 13, at Redeemer Lutheran Church from 10 until 11 a.m. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. in the church with Rev. Chad Ott officiating. A luncheon will immediately follow the service. Burial will take place at the Riverside Cemetery in Ironwood in the spring.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his name to the Marquette County Veterans Alliance, 415 Bishop Woods Road, Marquette, MI 49855; the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans (Activities Fund), 425 Fisher St., Marquette, MI 49855; or a charity of your choosing.
Canale-Tonella Funeral Home and Cremation Services is assisting the LaBlonde family where memories of George may be shared at canalefuneral.com.