The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 14, 2013

Raymond "Dale" Blackburn

The Joplin Globe

NEOSHO, Mo. — He led a life dedicated to God, his country and his family. A beloved child of God, brother, father and grandfather.

Born Oct. 7, 1931, in South Bend, Ind. Raised in Fort Wayne, Ind., and Louisville, Ky. Died at Freeman West Hospital, Joplin, on Saturday, May 11, 2013.

A senior analyst computer programmer specializing in engineering, Dale began working in computers in the Air Force in 1952. His professional career began at Reynolds Metals in Louisville in 1955, which transferred him to Richmond, Va. in 1958. Dale moved his family to California in 1962, where he worked for North American Rockwell in Downey, Calif., and later at Rockwell International (now part of Boeing) in Seal Beach, Calif.   Dale was part of the Apollo program inception team and was a key team member in the recovery operations of the Apollo 13 Astronauts after its on-board explosion.

Dale was presented at least 11 awards from Rockwell and NASA. One award was for his Engineering Data System for the Space Shuttle program, which was still in use when the Shuttle program was retired in 2011. This "Silver Snoopy Award" was taken up as cargo on the Challenger's last successful mission before being presented to him by the flight's Mission Specialist Astronaut, William Edgar Thorton.

Dale left aerospace for a few years to develop some software systems for the City of Los Angeles. He was recruited back to Rockwell International to lead the team responsible for the on-board systems of the initial Space Station "Freedom" before he and his wife, Sarah's retirement to Neosho, Mo. in 1989.

Predeceased by his wife in 2010, Sarah Ellen Harrington Mills; and parents, Dewey Kanada Blackburn and Blanch Elizabeth Moore

He is survived by all his siblings, Dewey Edwin Blackburn, Sun City Center, Fla., Blanch Marie Roark, of San Diego, Calif., and Delores Blackburn Hysler, of Wilson, N.C.; children, Raymond Dale Blackburn Jr., of Dove Creek, Colo., Denise Lyn Blackburn, of Falls of Rough, Ky., David Glen Blackburn, of Pau, France, Valerie Jean Mills Kohler, of Tulsa, Okla., and Melvin Robert Mills, who is under the care of the Veterans' Administration in Chula Vista, Calif.; six living grandchildren, two of which who were raised by him and his wife, Sarah, Raymond Dale Blackburn III, of Las Vegas, Nev., and Jeremy Eugene Blackburn, of San Diego, and two grandchildren who predeceased him; and 11 great-grandchildren and one great-grandchild who predeceased him.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 15, at Rocketdyne Road Church, Neosho, Denny Kruse officiating. Interment will be in Neosho Memorial Park Cemetery, Neosho. The body will lie in state from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, with the family receiving friends from 5 to 7 p.m. Clark Funeral Home, Neosho.

Memorial contributions in Dales memory may be made to Children's Hospital of Orange County or Southern California School of Evangelism in care of Clark Funeral Home, P.O. Box 66, Neosho, MO 64850.

Arrangements are under the direction of Clark Funeral Home, Neosho.

Online condolences may be posted at www.clarkfuneralhomes.com