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Industry mourns Smoker Craft executive

Smoker Craft executive vice president and chief financial officer Ronald “Joe” Blackburn died March 22.

Smoker Craft executive vice president and chief financial officer Ronald “Joe” Blackburn died March 22 after a five-month battle with brain cancer. He was 69.

Blackburn served as executive vice president and CFO of Smoker Craft, Starcraft Marine, Smock, and EarthWay Products.

As secretary of the board of directors, he was a valued adviser to the Schrock family. He also worked for Harold A. Schrock at his other businesses, including Goshen Sash & Door, Ivy Terrace and Goshen Iron and Metal, according to his obituary.

Blackburn oversaw the financial and human resource functions at each of the companies. He led his departments and influenced the culture of the organizations with his sense of humor, as well as his consistently fair, kind and generous nature. He was highly regarded as not only a manager, but a valued mentor and friend to all.

In a statement to the company, Smoker Craft president and CEO Doug Smoker remembered Blackburn.

“Joe had been diagnosed with a very aggressive strain of brain cancer on 10-17-14. Joe fought a valiant fight, but eventually succumbed to this terrible disease,” Smoker said. “Joe had been a friend and business partner of mine for over 38 years.”

“You don't work together for that period of time and not develop a special bond. It is difficult to understand why these things happen, but as I thought about the entire experience it is clear there is a message to all of us,” Smoker said. “I was able to pray with Joe several times, and it is clear he was at peace. The strength with which he fought this disease was a lesson for all of us. He loved his family and desperately wanted to see his grandchildren grow up knowing their grandpa. In the end the pain was simply too great, and although the medicine took its toll on his personality, he was always filled with that special wit that made Joe, Joe.”

According to his obituary, Blackburn possessed a quick wit that brought smiles and laughter to many. He enjoyed people and was always eager to strike up a conversation with whomever he met. His children and grandchildren were his pride and joy, but he also loved his work family at Smoker Craft. He enjoyed traveling, especially to Hawaii and the Caribbean, and loved the power and serenity of the ocean.

“The entire Smoker Craft family will miss Joe, and we are thankful for the time we have had together over these many years,” Smoker said.

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