John M. Blocher, Jr. died 5/28/19 at The Knolls of Oxford, in Oxford, Ohio, where he and his wife Phyllis enjoyed a community of old friends and new alike.
John was born in Baltimore, MD, on January 6, 1919 to Sallie B. (Garland) Blocher and John Milton Blocher, and attended the Berea (OH) city schools, Class of 1936. He studied chemistry at Baldwin-Wallace College, Class of 1940, where he met fellow student Phyllis Joan Burke on a blind date. They enjoyed a 72-year marriage that began on July 12, 1941, while he was pursuing his PhD in Physical Chemistry at The Ohio State University (1946).
John is survived by daughters Joann B. Alexander (Tim Tilton), Tucson, AZ; Kathryn McGrew (David), Oxford, OH; Mary Blocher (Marianne Iauco), Watertown, MA; son, Richard Blocher (Janice), Columbus, OH; fourteen grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren; and a large family of nieces, nephews, grand nieces, and grand nephews. He was preceded in death by his wife Phyllis, son John David Blocher, and sister Sallie Stokes.
John was a man of many talents and interests. He was a scientist to the core. His contributions included work on the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and a 35-year career as a research engineer, division chief, and senior research scientist at Battelle’s Columbus Laboratories. He had a book, scores of papers and sixteen patents in his field. In a 1960 Houston TX Electrochemical Society symposium, he introduced the term “Chemical Vapor Deposition” (CVD) to describe a process for generating thin films used on everything from safety razors to the space shuttle. It was the heart of his work. From 1967 through 1981, he organized the International CVD Symposia for the Electrochemical Society and was on the Advisory Board of the EURO-CVD series. In 2017, at age 98, he joined the March for Science. He was also a scientist at home. John enjoyed fixing things; in the words of son Richard, “I thought Dad got up in the middle of the night to break something so he could fix it in the morning.”
John was a musician. He and Phyllis sang with the Bach Festival Chorus at Baldwin-Wallace, the Columbus Symphony Chorus, Columbus’s King Avenue United Methodist Church choir (which he ultimately conducted), and the Oxford United Methodist Church choir. As a composer, his creations included several numbers for musicals at Baldwin-Wallace, several sacred pieces, the wedding processional for daughter Kathryn’s wedding, and the official camp song of his beloved Camp Indianola in the Hocking Hills. Perhaps most cherished, he led lots of family singing on the piano at home and with his guitar around the campfires on family camping trips.
John was a woodworker and builder. From trivets to rocking chairs, cradles, and tables, to a harpsichord, to his masterpiece, a beautiful cabin on 80 hilly acres in Morgan County, Ohio, he leaves his artistic craftsmanship for so many to enjoy.
John was a naturalist in the broadest sense. A dedicated vegetable gardener, he fed his family in Oak Ridge, Columbus, and Oxford. A hiker and explorer, he shared his love of nature as a Boy Scout leader for many years. A literal trail blazer, he created and nurtured trails at his cabin, at The Knolls of Oxford, and at the Silvoor Biological Sanctuary in Oxford, which he curated for 25 years. He was an active member and supporter of the Audubon Society (Miami Valley Chapter) and the Three Valley Conservation Trust.
John was a writer and lifelong learner. He enthusiastically and beautifully documented the many details and phases of his life, his travels, and the lives of his family and friends, in writing and in photographs. During his career, he learned German and Russian to better communicate with his global professional colleagues and great friends. He pursued his interests in the Battle of Gettysburg, botany, the great composers, and World War II history. He was an active member of Miami University’s Institute for Learning and Retirement. (He was also an archivist of all this; just ask the army of children and grandchildren who helped him make the move into assisted living a few days after his 100th birthday.)
John was a model steward of his own body. Throughout his professional career, he swam a mile a day at lunchtime, and later, held a years-long Ohio Masters Swimming record in backstroke. In retirement, he worked out nearly daily at the Miami University Rec Center, and eventually on the treadmill at The Knolls of Oxford. He would also tell you that he had a lot of good luck and good doctors.
Such a man with such a long life received many awards and honors, including the Baldwin-Wallace Alumni Merit Award (1965), Fellow of The Electrochemical Society, Oxford Citizen of the Years (1993), the Wallace I. Edwards Conservationist of the Year by Three Valley Conservation Trust (2008), and induction into the Ohio Senior Citizen Hall of Fame (2014). While he was duly recognized for his intellectual accomplishments, he was ever more fascinated by the things he did not yet know or understand. A man of deep convictions, he was always ready to overturn even the deepest of them when led by the evidence, his own methodical skepticism, and, more importantly, by love.
John was a devoted son, brother, cousin, nephew, husband, son-in-law, father, father-in-law, uncle, grandfather, great-grandfather, friend, neighbor and citizen of the world. We all adored him. If the arc of history truly bends toward justice, John was surely a part of that force. His always open mind led to an ever broadening and inclusive circle of friends and family. His only pain at the end of his life was his deep concern for the state of our world—its natural, social, and political climate—and this from a man who has witnessed 100 years of such challenges. He would ask that we all do better with and for each other, and for this glorious planet we call home.
A celebration of John’s life will be held at a later date. His ashes will join those of Phyllis, in a well-loved woods. Memorial gifts in his honor would be welcomed by The Knolls of Oxford Life Care Fund, the Miami Valley Audubon Chapter, or the Three Valley Conservation Trust. Or, go plant a vegetable garden, write a song or story, cut down some honeysuckle, make a new Scrabble buddy, march for justice, learn something new, and always, hug your friends and family.
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