Keith Blackburn, Gilbert, Ariz. - A HANDBALL STORY.
Oct. 13, 1941 - Jan. 3, 2021
Keith Blackburn passed away Sunday, January 3, 2021 at his home in Gilbert, Arizona, finally conceding a hard-fought match to Lewy Body dementia. He was 79 years old. Keith was born in Aldershot, England on October 13, 1941 and came to the U.S. with his mother Winifred “Wyn” when he was a child of four years. He is survived by his wife Geralyn; his son Kevin and wife Pam and their sons, Tyler and Tanner; his son Scott (writing in memoriam); and his brother Chester “Chet.” And of course, many nieces, nephews, other family members, and friends. He was preceded in death by his mother Wyn, his brother George, and the partner and friend with whom he built and operated U.S. Industrial Fasteners, Inc. for almost 40 years, Sam Vancel.
Keith grew up in Long Beach, California. He attended UC Riverside where he played basketball and football and, most importantly, met Geralyn Jarvis who would later become his wife and partner through life. He then went to UCLA, where he achieved Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Business Administration and became a CPA soon thereafter. Keith’s mother had only an elementary education so she was determined her sons would go to college and finish degrees—my grandmother was a force to reckon with and Dad carried her strength and love with him.
At UCLA, Keith discovered the geometric puzzle he would work on for almost 60 years…the four walls of Handball. He also met his life-long friend and frequent doubles partner through those decades, Donny Civerolo. Dementia stopped Keith from playing handball competitively in the last two years of his life—even then he would sometimes go to the local racquet club and throw a handball around the court to experience the “feel.” There were many tournaments in many places, wins and losses, and my brother Kevin and I found our opportunities to get there and watch Dad play. It was the fight he loved, the challenge, the competition…and we loved watching him. Nephews and nieces were sometimes there as well. Mom was ever-present cheering him on.
Geralyn and Keith were married on December 19, 1964 and celebrated their 56th anniversary together as 2020 closed. They were happily married and best friends for every one of those years. Together they traveled the world, they golfed, and they made life-long friendships with some amazing people (some of you). Geralyn taught school and Keith built a company while they raised two successful sons (USIF, Inc. continues to grow – Kevin leads the company and is building on Dad’s legacy today). Mom attended almost every handball tournament Dad played, and my brother and I spent our early childhood running around the YMCAs and racquet clubs where Dad competed, and we learned.
One of my earliest and strongest memories of the man and the example my father became in both his sons’ lives is peeking over the back wall of a handball court on tip toes—Dad was losing a match badly. He slammed his hand on the wall so hard I flinched, and he yelled angrily at himself, “C’mon, move!!” My mother echoed quietly, “C’mon Keifers,” then looked down at me and said, “Your father never gives up.”
…And he never did.
(Due to COVID-19, no memorial service is planned. We are remembering Keith with stories, messages, and photos at: https://www.kudoboard.com/boards/yD26SNAi. Please stop by.)
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