John Blanusa, our loving Dad, Grandpa, Great Grandpa, Brother, and life-long resident of Buckley, Washington, passed away Thursday, August 17, 2017, at age 92.
John was born April 10, 1925, into an immigrant Yugoslavian family in Burnett, Washington. Throughout his life, he loved to share stories of growing up in the close community of Lower Burnett. In 1943, at the age of 18, he was drafted into the United States Air Force 305th Division. John served as a tail gunner aboard a B-17 bomber, flying 35 successful missions over Europe during World War II.
Following the war, John returned to Buckley and, in 1950, married Joan Laffey. Together, they raised three daughters and one son. A devoted family man, John had a loving and close relationship with all four of his children. John started his logging business, and with one power saw in the trunk of his car, a strong sense of ambition, and a keen business sense, developed it into the Blanusa Logging Company, a successful company that lasted 40 years until his retirement. John was well known for his savvy at timber auctions, strong work ethic, and integrity. He was proud of his employees and he provided them with generous benefits from healthcare to retirement, including a profit sharing program that allowed the workers to share in the profits of the company.
After retirement, he became active in the City of Buckley government. He served three terms as mayor, from 1994-2006. Among his accomplishments, John was proud of his work to acquire a State of Washington grant allowing Buckley to replace its sewer collection system and repave most streets in the city. He was also proud to have negotiated a contract with the City’s natural gas provider to keep gas prices for the citizens of Buckley at a low, sustained rate at a time when other communities were seeing spikes in their gas rates.
John also loved sports. He followed and supported White River Athletics and contributed to many youth sports teams in the area. He also coached baseball from Little League to Colt League. John was a Washington Huskies football season ticket holder since the 1950’s, and as a Tyee member, he enjoyed trips to bowl games and many wonderful travel memories. John also held season tickets to the Seattle Mariners dating to the early days of the franchise, and, when not in attendance, he rarely missed games on the television. He passed his devotion to both teams onto the next generations and those to follow.
John had been a proud member of the Buckley Eagles since 1947, where he loved to go and just talk to people. He was an avid steelhead fisherman, and he enjoyed history, science, and the weather. He was truly a life-long learner. John lived his life with purpose, and he made a lasting impression on all who met him. He had a life well lived, and we will miss him dearly.
John is survived by his four children, Jeanne Ziltener of Buckley, Jill Kaelin (Dean) of Buckley, Judy Whitaker of Buckley, and Robert Blanusa (Lora) of Sonoma, California; brother Lloyd (Rosemary) of Buckley; mother of his children Joan Blanusa of Bonney Lake; ten grandchildren; six great grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Dan and Ana Blanusa; brothers Dan, Steve, and George; sisters Mary Swett, Katie Melbourne, and Angie Orban; and grandson Matthew Whitaker.
Funeral services will be held Friday, August 25, 2017. Sacred Heart Church, 1614 Farrelly St, Enumclaw, WA 98022, at 11 am. Burial at the Buckley Cemetery. Reception immediately following at the Buckley Hall, 127 N. River Rd. in Buckley. Family requests memorials be made to the Foothills Historical Museum, Buckley Eagles, or the Buckley Log Show.