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Earl H. Blanton Jr., 91, passed away peacefully with his family at his side Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017.
Earl was preceded in death by his wife of 65 years, Esta; two sisters, Betty Emerson of Dare, Va., and Felicia Crafford of Grafton, Va. He is survived by three daughters, Gerri Kalish (Josh) of Silver City, N.M., Pamela Sturms (Eugene) of Gloucester, Va., and Vicki Yerly (Raymond) of Richmond, Va.; two brothers, Leon Blanton of Weems, Va., and Jeffrey Blanton (Anne) of King George, Va.; six grandchildren, Audra Mills, Holly Mills, Shannon Sturms (Nate), Hillarey Tulip (Josh), Jay Sturms (Jessie) and “Jake” Yerly; and five great-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews spanning four generations.
Born in 1925 to Earl and Emma Blanton, in Gastonia, N.C., he was a lifelong resident of the Peninsula. He proudly served his country in the U.S. Navy during World War II as a gunners mate on an amphibious gunboat, part of the Naval Amphibious Force in the Pacific Theatre. His ship was involved in the Radar Picket Line, providing close support for the destroyers and battleships during the battle for Okinawa. Over 40 years later, he reunited with many of the surviving members of his ship and became their historian and author of their newsletter. Earl was one of the last remaining survivors. In 2003, Earl designed and presented a plaque dedicated to the men who served aboard the Amphibious Gunboat USS LCS (L) 118. This plaque is located at the Memorial Garden in the Admiral Nimitz Museum, Fredericksburg, Texas.
After the war ended, he returned to the Peninsula, where he married his high school sweetheart Esta Bunting and began raising a family. During this time, working mostly alone, he built the home that he and his family shared until his final days. He graduated from Hampton High School and The Apprentice School, operated by Newport News Shipbuilding, where he worked for over 40 years as a piping design supervisor.
He was an avid reader, writer and self-published author. He wrote prolifically of his World War II experiences, his life adventures, family genealogy and short stories, and more importantly, his thoughts and feelings through personal journals. The book on his World War II experiences titled; Boston – To Jacksonville (41,000 Miles By Sea) is in the Library of Congress and has been referenced by notable war historians.
Cap’n Earl, as he was fondly called, was a lifelong outdoorsman with a love of adventure, hunting, fishing, canoeing, camping and boating. One of his many adventures took him to Alaska in 1957, before it was our 49th state, where he and a close friend spent a month hunting with a professional guide.
He and Esta shared a love of boating, and over the 65 years of marriage, spent many weeks on his beloved boats, the Estalita I and Estalita II, and current, Estalita. Together, with family and boating friends, they explored the Chesapeake Bay and waters from Shelter Island, N.Y., to Florida. He received the Lifelong Membership Award from the Peninsula Saltwater & Sport Fisherman’s Association.
He had many accomplishments throughout his life, but his proudest was his family. Keeping a connection to family was very important to him; not just with his own children and grandchildren, but with his large extended family as well. He was a mentor to many that included young designers in the shipyard, fishing buddies, nieces, nephews and his own siblings. His influence on his daughters and grandchildren is beyond measure and his impact on people over his lifetime will be his lasting legacy.
We are grateful to all of the family and friends who have tirelessly supported Earl over the last few months.
The family will receive visitors from 2-5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15, at Amory Funeral Home, Yorktown. Funeral services will be held in the chapel of Amory Funeral Home at 11 a.m. Monday, Jan. 16. Interment will follow in Peninsula Memorial Park.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made on his behalf to the National Museum of the Pacific War – Home of the Admiral Nimitz Museum, www.pacificwarmuseum.org or 328 E. Main St., Fredericksburg, TX 78624.