February 18, 2010 at 8:54 a.m.
Born April 9, 1921, died February 13, 2010.
John was born to parents Albert Edward Blackford and Maud Barbara Blackford, at the Swedish Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on April 9, 1921, and he was named after his grandfather, John Clarence Blackford. John's parents originally came from the Fairfield, Iowa area and settled in South Minneapolis after Albert returned from serving in the Army and fighting for his country in France in World War I.
John graduated from South High School in June, 1938. John's father had a steady job during the 1930's Great Depression working for Minneapolis Moline Power Implement Company. John then went on to college at Hamline University with the intention of becoming an engineer. The summer following his freshman year he served as Athletic Director for Red Rock Camp (then at Mission farms on Medicine Lake near Minneapolis). On June 28, 1939, John experienced a life changing spiritual conversion at Red Rock Camp, then within the space of 30 hours, a call to preach and sanctifying grace! John graduated from Hamline University in May, 1942, with a Bachelor of Science in Physics and Mathematics, Magna Cum Laude.
During his senior year at Hamline, he served as a student pastor at Emanuel Swedish Methodist Church in North Minneapolis, the last year of the Swedish Methodist Conference in America. After graduation from Hamline University, he went to Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, from 1942 to 1945. He was ordained a Methodist Minister, Deacon, and Elder on the same day in Duluth in June, 1945, by Bishop Ralph S. Cushman so that he could enter the Navy Chaplain Corps. After joining the U.S. Navy/Marine Corps, John was assigned to the U. S. Navy South Pacific Fleet.
John was Honorably Discharged from military service in July, 1946. After military service, he was assigned by the Methodist Church Conference to be an Associate Pastor at Park Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he served from 1946 to 1948. While serving at Park Avenue United Methodist Church, he met his wife to be, Tulida Harriet Klein of Litchfield, Minnesota, a student nurse at Hamline-Asbury School of Nursing. John and Tulida fell in love and got married on May 7, 1948, at Park Avenue United Methodist Church. Shortly thereafter John was assigned to be the pastor of a multi-community Methodist Church centered in New Rockford, North Dakota. This church assignment included the cities of New Rockford, Cathay and Sheyenne, North Dakota.
John and Tulida had their first child, Rebecca Joy, on September 27, 1950, while living in New Rockford.
In 1951, John was assigned to a United Methodist Church in Hastings, Minnesota, where he ministered for eight years. He and Tulida had three more children while living in Hastings, James Matthew on December 9, 1952, Elizabeth Anne on May 7, 1955, and Joel Peter Klein on November 2, 1958. John always felt regret that he was asked by the Methodist Church Annual Conference to leave Hastings in such an abrupt manner, since they were in the middle of a building campaign. He loved the Hastings congregation and to this day had many good friends there.
In 1959 he was transferred by the Methodist Church Annual Conference to Lindstrom, Minnesota, and served at First United Methodist Church for 25 years. In 1959, the Lindstrom church was a small white church on Highway 8 with the parsonage next door and also was a former Swedish Conference Methodist Church. Again, God blessed John's ministry, and the church outgrew its building on Highway 8, and the wonderful and farsighted congregation embarked on a building plan. The new Lindstrom Church was completed in 1968, and since that time this fine facility has been a blessing from God to the members of First United Methodist Church and the community it serves. Due to health issues, John left the Lindstrom Church in 1984, and retired from full-time ministry.
John and Tulida moved to Forest Lake, Minnesota, where he became a part-time Assistant Minister at Forest Hills United Methodist Church. He was involved in the life of this church for 26 years until his death in February, 2010. He loved the people of the Forest Lake area and the Forest Hills United Methodist Church congregation so very much and wished that he could have had more years of ministry there. He was busy in ministry right up to the end of his life including performing a baptism in the church in December, 2009.
John was also involved in many community activities including Boy Scouts, membership in the East Central Regional Library Board, as a trustee of the Valkommen Apartments Board and also served for many years as a Chaplin for the Chisago County Sheriff's Department. He also served on the Board of Directors for Goodwill Industries and the Forest Lake Planning Commission. In addition he was a member of the local Posts of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. John was also active for 50 years in the role of Military Chaplain at the annual Chisago Lakes Area Memorial Day Services held at local cemeteries.
One of the members of his church once mentioned to John that the best thing he ever did was to marry Tulida! He understood this and knew that many of the great successes he had achieved in his ministry depended on her love and support.
John was also very proud of his children. He loved them all deeply and imparted, by faithful Christian example, a love for God in each of them. The children of John and Tulida and their families are daughter Rebecca (Kenath or Skip) Sponsel and her children Michele (Timothy) Pamplin, Ken III Sponsel and Charles Sponsel; son James (Judith) and his children Jennifer and John James Blackford; daughter Elizabeth (Paul) Scheele and her children Ben, John Evan and Scott Scheele; and son Joel, and his children Meghan Blackford and Jacob Blackford. John and Tulida's great grandchildren are the children of Michele (Timothy) Pamplin; Zachary, Nicholas and Anna Pamplin.
John had one main goal in this life - to serve God and reach out in the name of Jesus Christ to everyone he could. Guided by the Holy Spirit, he helped many people make a decision to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and enter into a life-changing spiritual relationship with God.
Visitation will be from 3:30 to 6:30 on Friday, Feb. 19 at the First United Methodist Church in Lindstrom. Refreshments will be served during the visitation. There will be a service for friends from Lindstrom at 6:30 p.m. There will be another visitation from 9 to 11 on Saturday, Feb. 20 at Forest Hills United Methodist Church in Forest Lake with a service for Forest Lake friends at 11 a.m. The family will gather for a private interment at the Methodist Cemetery in Center City on Saturday afternoon. Arrangements by the Grandstrand Funeral Home - Lindstrom. Condolences may be left at www.grandstrandfh.com.