Major General Gary C. Blair
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Helena —Maj. General Gary C. Blair passed away on March 18th, 2014. He died as he lived, with grace, dignity, and a touch of humor. A man of accomplishment, a man of character and conviction, a man of high moral integrity, a Vietnam veteran, a fighter pilot, a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, brother, son, and cheerleader for Jesus Christ, his lord and savior.
Born on November 9, 1938 to Gerald W. Blair and Ruth V. Blair (Knox) of Iowa Falls, Iowa, his first memories were of a world at war, and a country focused on winning and preserving our way of life. He knew then he would someday fly and fly he did not only in fighter jets but in life.
On July 25, 1959 he married Rachel M. Blair (Gallagher) of Great Falls, Montana and for 54 years they would build a life together full of children, adventure, achievements, and always at the ready to lend a helping hand.
Shortly after graduating from Iowa Falls High School, he enlisted in the Air Force in 1957 and after his discharge in 1963, he joined the Montana Air National Guard and received his Navigator wings in 1965 and in 1968 he earned his pilot wings. In 1969, he volunteered and served with the 405th Tactical Fighter Wing, DaNang, Republic of Vietnam and flew 72 combat missions. Following his return from Vietnam, he would hold numerous positions in the Montana Air National Guard and in June of 1985 he assumed command of the 120th Fighter Interceptor Group. Under the Generals command the 120th would garner two Air National Guard Distinguished Unit Flying Awards, two Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards, the Air Force Association Outstanding Unit Award, and the Hughes Trophy for the most outstanding fighter unit in the United States Air Force.
Among his accomplishments General Blair was a command pilot with more than 5,000 hours of flying time in the F-102 Delta Dagger, F-106 Delta Dart, and F-16 Fighting Falcon. He is the recipient of 24 awards and decorations including the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Force Commendations Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with three Oak Leaf Clusters and the Combat Readiness Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters. He completed Air War College in 1979 and in 1982 he was accepted and graduated from the prestigious Industrial College of The Armed Forces.
Our father seldom dwelled on his personal accomplishments or awards, but rather would tell you that his highest honor came from working along, side by side, with the members of the Montana Air National Guard. Their service and dedication to their Country was in his words what it was all about, and as he would say from time to time, those folks from the 60s, 70s, and 80s were simply world class. You weren't going to find a more talented group of people, singularly focused on making the 120th FIG the best of the best and that is exactly what they did. It was his honor to have been a part of it!
In 1989, General Blair relinquished command of the Montana Air Guard to become the Montana State Adjutant General for the Montana National Guard in Helena Montana under Governor Stephens and in 1991 he was federally promoted to Major General.
After his retirement in 1993, Gary and Rachel turned their attention to family and became full time cheerleaders in spreading the good news about Jesus Christ and continued to do so throughout the rest of his life.
Proceeded in death by his father Gerald, the General leaves behind his wife Lady Rachel, daughter Laura Laposky (Larry) of Helena Montana, her children Shawn Linnell (Susan), Melissa Miner (Mark). Son Gary of Helena Montana, his children Danielle Bullock (Brad), Erica, Jenna, and Rebecca. Son Chad Blair (Kymm) of Whitebear, Minnesota and their children Amber and Andrew. Great Grandchildren; Leighanna, Karlynn, Kade, and Abraham. His mother Ruth, and siblings, Carolyn Bryant (Sherman), Gene Blair (Simone), Virginia Price, Kathy Firman (Pat) and a whole host of nieces and nephews.
As we say farewell to our beloved Patriarch, we will long remember his passion for life, his gift for having long and unending conversations, his willingness to see the good in people and his ever present longing to make the world a better place. Full afterburner papa, it's been a little bit of HEAVEN!
Visitation will be from noon to 4:00 p.m. Monday, March 24 at Anderson Stevenson Wilke Funeral Home, 3750 N. Montana Ave. A memorial service will be held at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at the First Lutheran Church, 2231 Broadway. Burial with Military Honors will take place at Montana State Veterans Cemetery, at Fort Harrison, following the memorial service. A reception will be in the fellowship hall at the First Lutheran Church following the burial. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, we would very much appreciate donations be made to First Lutheran Church, 2231 East Broadway, Helena, MT 59601 to help support all the good they do for our community. Please visit www.aswfuneralhome.com to offer the family a condolence or to share a memory of Gary.
Published in Great Falls Tribune on Mar. 23, 2014