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Official Obituary of

Loye E. Blackburn

February 8, 1935 ~ February 26, 2024 (age 89) 89 Years Old

Loye Blackburn Obituary

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Loye E. Blackburn was born 8 February 1935 in Great Falls Montana. Of the twelve children born to Ernest and Melva Blackburn, Loye was the ninth child, and the sixth son. He died at home in Congress, Arizona, on 26 February 2024. Not a bad run. He was predeceased by his parents and eight siblings: Garth, Donna Warnick, Bryce, Betty Jensen, Kent, Lynn, Joyce James, and Gerry. He is survived by his favorite sister, Kaye Blackburn Stevens, brothers Duane (Doretha) and Merle (Janice), all five of his children: Steven Brett (Cindy), Rodney Lee, Reed Alan (Leslie Mercord), Shelly Ann Farber, and Kristina Kaye Otto (Roger), eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Loye’s 89 years were not mundane. In his youth, while dreaming of being a pilot, he participated in 4-H, was a competitive jockey, an aspiring ventriloquist, and worked on the family dairy ranch
in Manchester. Growing up on the old homestead unquestionably molded the man he would become: hardworking, responsible, brave, winsome, adventurous, persistent, persuasive, and stubborn. When he believed in something, it was with his whole heart. He was fervent in his convictions. For example, his school records show multi-week absences in which he pursued his strong belief in the hunting season. Fishing, of all types, was also a top priority from an early age. Women loved him and fish feared him. He loved horseback hunting trips, jungle flying, hopping trains, mountain biking, snowmobiling, hiking, backpacking, and gardening. He had a special place in his heart for gold prospecting, and a penchant for swapping stories and meeting new friends.

Dad graduated from Great Falls High School in 1953. From 1955 through 1957 he served in the Texas-Louisiana Mission for the LDS church. There, he shared the Gospel, honed his already well developed power of persuasion, and learned to clean the frying pan after his missionary companion used it to enjoy fried brains. Returning from the mission field, he entered Brigham Young University in Provo Utah, where he met his match in Leonnie Funk. They were married March 19, 1959 in Mesa, Arizona. From this union sprang lots of fireworks, and five beautiful, well-adjusted children. To support his new family, Loye was first a concrete contractor, then an insurance man. At the same time he served in the Montana Air National Guard. Subsequently, for 25 years, he owned and operated Skymart Aviation in Great Falls, amassing over 14,500 hours as pilot in command while selling fixed and rotor wing aircraft throughout the Northwest. These flight hours were not without incident. He managed to survive enough airplane crashes to earn the moniker ‘Crash Burnblack’ among his pilot friends. Dad and Mom divorced in 1985.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was the principal guiding influence in his life.  Loye believed that God lives; that He knows each of us personally; and that He is the Father of our spirits. He believed in the Plan of Salvation. He took special pride in being ordained a High Priest by Spencer W. Kimball. He served in many educational and leadership positions for The Church, including on the High Council in the Great Falls, Montana Stake.

First and foremost, dad was a salesman. He made many new friends throughout his life, and kept copious notes so he could engage with them on a personal level. He genuinely enjoyed the process of listening intently, and then introducing the idea or object that would solve their problem and improve their lives. When the economy made the airplane business untenable, he sold cars. He sold Amway. He sold guns, knives, cattle, horses, real estate, recreational vehicles, gold prospecting equipment, and metal detectors. He sold whatever needed selling, and some things that didn’t. We think that he sold ice cubes to Eskimos. 

In 1987, Loye found (and married) another strong-willed woman in Freda King. Freda brought three youngsters to the relationship: Eric, Jennifer and Sheila. The new family of five moved to Whitefish, Montana in 1988, spending the next 12 years selling, fishing, biking, skiing, and raising a family in that singular slice of heaven on earth. Eventually, however, the cold winters, and married life, became tiresome. In 2000, Loye and Freda divorced, and dad headed south to a more hospitable climate where he would spend the next 24 years. 

It was at that time when he was bitten by the Gold Bug. As any good salesman knows, the primary driver of success is prospecting. Dad, wiser and more efficient at 65 years of age, economized his efforts by simultaneously prospecting for gold and customers. In 2002, he established a small business, BackCountry Prospectors, which sold prospecting equipment and metal detectors. For about a decade, he moved the operation between Stanton, Arizona (winter quarters) and Sumpter, Oregon (summer quarters). In 2011, he built a house and small storefront in Stanton, where he lived and operated the business out of a single location until 2018.

By now, it was becoming more difficult to run the business. His hearing was failing due to all those hours in airplanes without ear protection. Dad went to live with his son, Steve and his family, in Heber City, Utah, but ultimately missed the desert and his friends there. He moved back to Stanton in 2019. 

His place was a little remote, even for him, and too difficult to keep up, so in 2021 he made the decision to sell, and moved down the road to Congress. It is in Congress that he lived out his remaining three years–pulling weeds on his hands and knees in his immaculately kept yard. He really should have been living with family, or in assisted living, but he would not have that. His aim was to remain in his own home. Due to the incredible support of his many friends and neighbors, along with the close proximity of firemen and paramedics, he was able to do just that.

Since the cold, long winters don’t affect subterranean dwelling, it was Loye’s dream to be buried in Manchester, Montana near his childhood home.

If you have a few free hours, please join us for the Funeral Service on Apr 6, 2024 at 12:00 Noon at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 1401 9th St NW, Great Falls, MT 59404. Burial at Manchester Cemetery immediately following. A luncheon will be given at the church after the burial. If you can’t make it in person, there will be a recording of the service at

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the charity of your choice.

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Funeral Service
April 6, 2024

12:00 PM
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
1401 9th St. NW
Great Falls, MT 59404


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