James Robert Blackburn, 56, a resident of Sitrin Health Care Center's Birch House and formerly of Rome, NY, passed into the arms of the Lord on Thursday, April 5.
Jim was the son of Donna Blackburn and the late Lt. Col. Frank Blackburn, who lovingly cared for him at home for many years and who remained his devoted advocates as he lived out his adult life in area group homes for individuals with special needs.
Born January 4, 1962, in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Jim enjoyed a life of love, reasonably good health, activities, and travel, despite profound cognitive and physical disabilities caused by a neurological disorder known as Sturge-Weber Syndrome.
During his father's military service in the Air Force, Jim traveled everywhere with his family, living in numerous U.S. states and Germany by the age of 10. As a late teen, Jimmy began attending day programs operated by the state of New York. He eventually moved into the state's adult care facility in Rome and subsequently lived in smaller state-run adult group homes near his parents.
In 2013, Jim became a resident of Birch House in Sitrin's Gan Kavod program, an arrangement that put him a short hop from his mother's assisted living facility on the same campus.
Jim was well-loved by his family and the staff at Gan Kavod. Aides at both his home and the day program he attended on campus often remarked how they were drawn by his endearing wide grin and affable, low-pitched chuckle. He loved music and often bobbed to the beat in his wheelchair at group events in his adult care home.
During childhood, Jim was introduced to a variety of music genres as his siblings and parents silently waged a battle of the wills to win his musical heart. Mom tuned his radio station to classical music. His siblings would return home from school and, asserting their status as Jim's peers, would switch the station to rock and roll. Dad usually set the dial to country and western during his time in Jim's room, which also doubled as a den. Ultimately, Dad's choice was the style that topped the charts for Jim.
Jim also enjoyed a good head rub, especially on life's rougher days.
Besides his mother, Jim is survived by four siblings: Wendy Barrett and her husband Scott of Leonardsville, Debbie Tompkins and her husband Ken of New Hartford, David Blackburn and his wife Callie of Keller, TX, and Andrea D'Addio and her husband Dave of Cheshire, CT. Jim's nieces and nephews are Connor and Hannah Barrett; Sarah, Abby and Aaron Tompkins; Gracie and Chloe Blackburn and Sidni Heitz; and Dylan and Kai D'Addio.
The family wishes to express their appreciation to the many caregivers who helped Jim throughout the years. Our deepest gratitude goes to the caregiving aides, managers and administrators at Sitrin's Gan Kavod facilities. Their compassion and tender care were unsurpassed. Sitrin employees looked after our beloved Jim not only while he was at home and in day program, but also during his final brief hospital stay. Their presence helped support both Jim and our family through his heart-breaking last days.
Calling hours will be held from 4 to 4:30 p.m. on Friday, April 13, at Zion Lutheran Church, 630 French Road, New Hartford. A memorial service will follow immediately afterward. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Jim's name to Gan Kavod, 2050 Tilden Ave., P.O. Box 634, New Hartford, NY 13413-0634.