NORTHUMBERLAND — Longtime funeral director Jerre Wirt Blank died Monday at this home. He was 82.
Friends, colleagues and local elected officials expressed their condolences on Tuesday as the news spread of Blank’s passing.
“Helping people through the difficulties that come with the end of life is more than simply a business, and Jerre Blank knew that,” said John Deppen, a friend of Blank’s daughter Abby. “It takes a certain amount of fortitude to confront death on a regular basis and to not become jaded to the needs of grieving families. We all reach a point in our lives where we think about our legacy. Jerre Blank leaves behind a legacy of compassion and service.”
Blank graduated as valedictorian from Sunbury High School in 1957. He attended both MIT and Bucknell University, and later graduated from the Eckels College of Mortuary Science in Philadelphia to join the family funeral home. In 1968, as fourth generation, he took over the funeral business from his mother, Ethel M. Blank, and his aunt, E. Jane (Wirt) MacDonald Wetzel. Jerre was dedicated to the business until his death and is succeeded by his son, David W. Blank, as fifth generation.
Blank operated his funeral business out of 309 Water St., Northumberland, formerly known as the Elliot-Davis House, considered the oldest building in Northumberland. The original section, at the rear, was constructed in 1772 and additions were made in 1811 and 1873. It has operated as a mortuary business since 1927, according to historical society material.
Blank was also the stepfather of Northumberland County Commissioner Kymberley Best since she was age 9. She described him as a generous man, a stable and loving stepfather who truly lived life to the fullest.
“I will truly miss him,” said Best.
Northumberland County Coroner James Kelley, also a funeral director, said he and his family are “extremely saddened” by Blank’s passing.
“He was a good friend first and foremost, in addition to he and I being fellow funeral directors,” said Kelley. “Jerre served many families through the years and guided them during their most difficult time. His son David and the entire Blank family will be in my prayers.”
Northumberland Mayor Dan Berard and Borough Council President Paul Ruane also extended their well wishes to the family.
“I offer my prayers and thoughts to his family,” said Berard. “It’s a shame. The borough has lost a long-standing citizen.”
Berard said he met Blank when he and his wife operated the Townside Garden Cafe and then later catered for him.
“He was one who liked to entertain,” said Berard. “I liked him.”
Ruane said he knew Blank for 40 years and used his services after the death of his mother and son.
“He was a good guy, a good undertaker,” said Ruane. “He was a nice guy. He was a big part of Northumberland.”