Benjamin Paul Blasingame

Obituary
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    - Betty Arnold Henderson (a Delco retiree)
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97, a longtime Santa Barbara resident, died peacefully on November 13, 2015 in Kalispell, Montana, where he had recently moved to be with his family. He was an active member of the Santa Barbara community both as Manager of Delco Electronics and as a volunteer in many charitable interests. He retired in 1979 from Delco but remained active as a board member of Cottage Hospital, a trustee of the Santa Barbara Foundation, chair of the Santa Barbara Chapter of the National Alliance of Business, and several other organizations.

Paul was born in State College, PA. He graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 1940 with a degree in engineering and as a reserve officer in the US Army Signal Corps. During World War II, he served with an Air Force Fighter Group in Panama as a communications and radar officer. After the war, he remained in military service as an Air Force officer serving in a variety of engineering endeavors. In 1945 he worked in research at Wright Patterson labs and began a long association with Dr. Charles Stark Draper and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1947 the Air Force sponsored his enrollment at MIT in its Aeronautical Instrumentation Program. Under the guidance of Dr. Draper, he earned a Doctorate of Science in 1950 in Aeronautical Instrumentation, setting the stage for his career interest in inertial guidance systems for spacecraft and commercial/military aircraft.

Upon completion of his doctorate, he served at the Pentagon on engineering and research teams including the team that pushed for the development of the turbofan jet engine, a significant improvement on the turbojet engine in use at the time. He was then transferred to Los Angeles as Chief Guidance Officer in the Air Force missile development program, later becoming the project officer for the Titan I missile. He then accepted the position as Chair of the Aeronautics Department at the newly founded Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. When AC Spark Plug Division of General Motors in Milwaukee, working with the Air Force and MIT, received the contract for the Apollo guidance system, Paul was recruited as director of engineering for the program.

Paul resigned his Air Force commission as a Colonel for this opportunity but worked closely with the Air Force throughout his years with GM. He thus began his civilian career that led to his eventual move to Santa Barbara as Manager of Delco Electronics, by that time a separate GM division focused on aeronautical and defense work. In addition to the Apollo guidance system, the Delco group developed other booster-rocket guidance systems, gyro-stabilized firing systems for the Army, and inertial navigation systems for commercial airlines and military transports.

His work in navigation and space was recognized through multiple awards and

commendations. He was honored as a Space and Missile Pioneer, received the NASA Public Service Award, the Distinguished Public Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, a Presidential Commendation, membership in the Aviation Hall of Fame, and many other awards.

Paul's enthusiasm for his life's work is reflected in his remarks at the 35th Anniversary of the Apollo Space Program: "It was one of those events that lifts the human spirit and makes life exciting and thrilling, quite apart from ordinary experience and most likely not to happen again in the foreseeable future ... with thanks for our good fortune in having such a personal close encounter with an extraterrestrial body."

Paul married Ella Mae Perry in 1942. They are survived by their four children, eight grandchildren, and three great grandchildren. Mae died in 1991. He later married Margaret A. Timmons of Santa Barbara who died earlier this year.

There will be a private, family service. Contributions in Paul's memory may be made to:

? Santa Barbara Foundation

? The Courthouse Docent Council with note that contribution is designated

or "The Clock Gallery"


Published in The Santa Barbara News-Press Online Edition from Nov. 26 to Nov. 30, 2015
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