Norval Glenn Blankenship died May 3, 2022, surrounded by loved ones peacefully at his home in Terre Haute, Ind. He was born at home in Jasper County, Ind., on Feb. 27, 1926, to Victoria Elizabeth Jane Jones Blankenship and Orval Greeley Blankenship. He was the oldest of seven children, who, along with their children and grandchildren, lovingly knew him as “Sonny.” He was married to Marcella Lorraine McDaniel on Oct. 24, 1969, following two previous marriages.
He started life and school in Jasper and White counties, with much of his extended family still living in the Rensselaer, Ind., area. His family moved to Vigo County in the late 1930s and he attended Pimento School in Vigo County. He remained lifelong friends with many schoolmates. He and many members of his family were part of the Seventh Day Adventist Church community in Terre Haute.
He worked a variety of jobs in his early adulthood, including for Tony Hulman Jr. in the warehouse at Hulman & Company and for Don Smith at the Terre Haute Action Track. He learned to drill oil wells and worked for many years in Northern Indiana in the oil industry, as well as drilling test wells for construction projects like the Indiana Toll Road. In the late 1960s, he transitioned to drilling water wells, learning the business from Marcella’s dad. He drilled thousands of wells for homes and businesses in Vigo County and surrounding areas in his decades of work. He came out of retirement briefly in the early 1990s to work with his friend Wilton Armstrong to drill geothermal wells for a housing development in southern Vigo County.
Norval led a long, happy, and colorful life of 96 years. He had a great love of children and enjoyed sharing nature with them, teaching them how to use tools and build things, and encouraging them to be generally ornery. He said the secret to his longevity was that children kept him young, which is why he had 12 kids, 24 grandchildren, 30 great-grandchildren, and 10 great-great-grandchildren.
He celebrated 50 happy years of marriage with Marcella prior to her death in 2019. They enjoyed many years together on the antique car circuit with their 1929 Ford Model A pickup, stopping at every flea market and yard sale along the way. Prior to restoring the Model A, Norval bought motorcycles for him and Marcella to ride on their weekend trips. Together, they had a wide social circle through many years of living in Terre Haute, participation in car clubs, and their daily visits to Denny’s South in Terre Haute. They enjoyed traveling in retirement and the Model A truck took them 6,400 miles coast-to-coast, to the top of Pike’s Peak, 27 states and Canada. Norval drove 18 years in the Newport (IN) Hill Climb.
Norval was a non-stop tinkerer and spent late nights in the garage fixing cars and nearly any machine, with Marcella handing him wrenches and holding lights while he worked. He also enjoyed the many friends, family, and neighbors who would stop by to chat or ask for his advice. He welcomed their welding projects or old car challenges. He was passionate about cars, antique tractors, and motorcycles. On any night, you could find one of his sons or daughters working with him, or his cat Eliza or dog Bogey keeping him company in the dark. To know Norval was to know his garage and junk pile.
Norval was preceded in death by his wife Marcella; his parents Orval and Victoria Blankenship; his siblings and their spouses, Norman Blankenship (Barbara), Delores “Sis” Brandom (Bill), Patricia Johnson (Earl), and Barbara Lawrence (John); four children: Darlene Wilson and Richard Blankenship (with their mother, Mary); Cerythia Banck (with her mother, Jenny); and Bridget Rost (with her mother, Marcella).
He is survived by his siblings Carole Elwell (Walt, deceased) and Art Blankenship (Betty); eight children – four from his first wife, Mary: Steve Blankenship of Terre Haute, Dave Blankenship of Terre Haute, Ruby Watters of Terre Haute, and Debbie Sons (Michael) of Terre Haute; one from his second wife, Norma: Lauri Weatherman Woodall of Noblesville; and three with his third wife Marcella: Dennis Blankenship (Jenifer) of Greenfield, Ind., Rosalie “Rosie” Blankenship (Lynn Goodner) of Plainfield, Ind., and Rebecca Moore (Jimi) of Terre Haute. He is survived by and well-loved by a number of nieces, nephews, cousins, and the aforementioned grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren.
A celebration of life service will be held Sunday, May 22 at 4 p.m. with visitation preceding from 2-4 p.m. at the Seventh Day Adventist Church at 900 South 29th St. in Terre Haute. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Sycamore A’s (mail checks in care of James Page, 931 North Preston Place, West Terre Haute, IN, 47885) and the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
Norval’s family would like to thank his many caregivers who assisted in making his last two years and particularly final four months comfortable and peaceful while living in his own home. Family members were joined in this critically important time by caregivers from ComfortKeepers and Intrepid (hospice care).
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