David Willmarth Blunt
September 29, 1943 - May 7, 2023
Many adjectives have been used to describe Dave Blunt; athletic, strong, friendly, curious, hardworking, and kind, are all words that immediately come to mind. He could also sometimes be set in his ways, and his kids often celebrated this trait by giving him shirts with phrases like “Don’t Want to, Don’t Have to, I’m Dave”. But the one word that truly encompasses his nature was ‘generous’. Even on his deathbed, Dave was concerned for his family and their well-being more than himself, and reminded them of things not to forget after he was gone. David Willmarth Blunt passed away peacefully early in the morning of Sunday, May 7, 2023 at home with loved ones by his side after living with pulmonary fibrosis for more than a decade.
Born September 29, 1943 in Youngstown, Ohio to Robert and Dorothy (Leubin) Blunt, Dave was the middle of three active boys. He would often fondly reminisce about the adventures he and his brothers Bill and Bob would get into, especially after the family moved to California in 1947. Dave carried his life in California in his heart, and although born a Midwestern boy, he always considered himself to be from the west coast. Dave got immense joy and satisfaction from tending to his family's avocado trees to help his dad provide a little income for the family. Even in recent years, he prided himself on being able to pick out a perfect avocado.
Dave excelled in baseball, football, and track while he attended Escondido High School. After high school he attended the University of Oregon from 1961-1965 where he ran track for Bill Bowerman, the founder of Nike shoes, during the golden age of Oregon Track and Field. He was modest about having been one of the fastest men in the world. And while he could remember every sprint time he ever had at particular meets, especially the NCAA championships, he mostly enjoyed recalling the quality of the relationships he had with his teammates, especially the Canadian world record holder Harry Jerome. He also developed lifelong friendships with the members of the Sigma Chi fraternity, and he and his fraternity brothers and their families would get together annually for a University of Oregon football game, which was always a highlight of his fall over the years. While Dave never thought he was a particularly good student, he did enjoy his economics classes which is what he eventually majored in. His fraternity brothers often helped him with his studies.
After graduating from University of Oregon, Dave fully embraced being part of the family business as Vice President of Sales for Harborlite Corporation. This position afforded him the opportunity to work with his parents and brothers on a daily basis, even as the business brought Dave and his older brother Bill to Vicksburg, Michigan, away from California where his parents remained, along with younger brother Bob and his family. Dave took great pleasure in being on the road traveling to sugar beet mills and other manufacturing facilities that required filtration products, and to Harborlite’s various perlite mines. There was hardly a truck stop in rural America that Dave had not eaten in, and any time his children traveled, he would urge them to go to a specific truck stop where he remembered them having an especially good piece of pie, or to seek out a Waffle House.
In 1966, Dave married Martha Page and they made their home first in Vicksburg, Michigan, and then in Kalamazoo. Despite divorcing in 1989, Dave and Martha were able to remain friends as co-parents of their three children: Christopher, Rob, and Kathleen. Dave suffered a terrible loss with the death of his younger brother, Bobby in 1989. Bobby and his wife Sue had seven children in California, and true to Dave’s generous spirit, he stepped up to make sure Bobby’s children and his widow felt cared for.
On March 3, 1993, Dave married Debra (Beauchamp) Wagnitz, and welcomed her two children, Sarah and Aimee into his life. The Blunt and Wagnitz families blended well; in fact, Sarah, Aimee, and Kathleen all played for the same high school soccer team for a year, and Sarah and Kathleen roomed together their first year of college. Dave enthusiastically cheered for all of his children - both biological and step - from the stands and at their various athletic and academic endeavors, and often volunteered to help at volleyball matches and school functions.
Dave retired with the sale of Harborlite in the early 1990s and he and Deb proceeded to build their dream home in the woods near Richland, Michigan. Dave and his brother-in-law, Dale Beauchamp, often worked on the house together placing the beams of its complex roof structure. Several of Dave and Deb’s kids were married at the house in the summer and fall of 2004. The beautiful tiered gardens around the house were the co-creation of Dave and Blaine Forintos, Deb’s swashbuckling, bohemian brother of her brother-in-law who became one of Dave’s best friends and confidants.
Being an elite athlete certainly brought its perks, like strong lungs that most likely allowed Dave to keep his pulmonary fibrosis at bay for longer than expected, but it also took a toll on his body, especially his knees. Good knees or not, Dave always found ways to stay active. While his knees were still good, it was all paddleball all the time, even earning him a National Championship with his doubles partner from Court Players Court and Fitness in Portage, Michigan. Over the years he also enjoyed golfing, biking, and working out at the Sherman Lake YMCA. Dave’s main hobby, however, was being outside attending to the woods on their property, often with the humorous banter that his son-in-law Hank provided. A beautiful Michigan day on his Kubota clearing downed trees in good company was truly Dave’s idea of a day well spent. Dave enjoyed concocting fantasies about projects he would love to do, sometimes executing them while also consigning most of them to the “not affordable” category. He still liked dreaming about new ideas, though. He also liked problem-solving, especially if it involved his tractor, like once pushing down a tree while in his dress clothes to allow a bus of guests to get onto the property for the wedding of his middle child, Rob, and his wife Danielle.
Another activity Dave enjoyed was traveling. Whether a roadtrip to visit college campuses with his kids, a trip out east to visit his son Rob and his family, a pilgrimage to Oregon to meet his Sigma Chi brothers, a visit to his son Chris’s home in Hawaii, an art-filled trip to Italy with Deb, an Alaskan cruise with family, an out-West visit to Washington to spend time with his daughter Kathleen and her family, a Disney family vacation, or the “once in a lifetime” trip to Kenya that he and various family members took twice in one year, Dave enjoyed learning about other cultures, exploring historical sites, eating local foods, and connecting with all those he met. He also
enjoyed listening to “funky” music and finding new-to-him bands and musicians and sharing them with his family and friends. He was quite fond of anything that had a good beat.
Mostly, Dave adored his family. He kept quite the sense of humor as it wasn’t out of the ordinary for his kids or grandkids to play practical jokes on him, or to lovingly tease him about his eccentricities. Although his children and grandchildren were spread all over the country - and sometimes world - they were never far from his heart and mind. Dave loved hearing about his children’s and grandchildren’s wins, and wished he would have been able to visit with everyone more often in person.
As Dave’s disease progressed and his activity level was forced to slow, he had to stop his morning breakfasts with a group of friends who frequented all of the various pancake houses and family-owned restaurants in the Kalamazoo area. Uncle Ernie's was a long-standing recent favorite. Dave made friends with many wait staff over the years and always prided himself on being an excellent tipper. Although he ached to be able to return to his normal level of activity and to the woods, he found pleasure in having family, friends, and neighbors visit, talking about history and music with his grandchildren and watching videos of them playing soccer, dancing or playing music, eating good food, and watching Jeopardy, movies, and reruns of Seinfeld with Deb.
Dave was preceded in death by his brother Bob and his parents, and is survived by his cherished wife, Deb, his children and step children: Christopher (Kerstin) Blunt, Dr. Robert (Danielle Walters) Blunt, Kathleen (Colby) Richards, Sarah (Hank) Avink, and Dr. Aimee (Tim) Simpson, as well as his grandchildren: Elonna, Henry, Jeffrey, Simonne, David, Sophia, Corbin, Molly, Charlie, Nathan, Julian, Gabriel, and Tessa. He also had three honorary grandchildren: Zainab, Nazli, and Zarifa. He is additionally survived by his brother Bill (Diane) Blunt, many beloved nieces and nephews and other extended family members, and his ex-wife, Martha (Bob) Greene.
Dave's generosity had no boundaries. Whether it was through helping his kids with his time and finances, doing free yardwork for neighbors in need, stopping to talk to a stranger who looked like they could use a kind word, letting friends fish on their lake, or faithfully donating year after year to causes he believed in, such as a girls' orphanage in Reynosa, Mexico, Dave authentically made the world a better place through his gestures - both small and large.
While at Dave’s webpage at www.amsfuneralhomes.com please take time to sign his guestbook and/or share a memory with his family. In the face of his horrible disease, Dave found immense comfort in the visits and care from his hospice workers at Centrica Care Navigators. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to https://centricacare.org/giving/ in Dave’s name.
A celebration of Dave’s life will be held in fall 2023.
The Blunt family is being cared for by the Avink, McCowen & Secord Funeral Homes, 129 South Grand, Schoolcraft, MI 49087 (269) 679-5622.