Greenville’s Ron Blanding has enjoyed a life of recreation and service

By Kelli Ameling • Last Updated 12:05 pm on Tuesday, January 03, 2012

In May 1967, Ron Blanding participated in Mayor Exchange Day. While visiting Westland, the community found a 1926 Marquette for Blanding to drive because they knew of his love for antique cars. —Courtesy photos

Ronald “Ron” Blanding has dedicated most of his life giving back to Greenville after being born and raised here.

He is an entrepreneur in the milk business who gave back to the community by serving on a variety of boards and participating in many clubs.

Blanding, 83, believes everyone should be involved in their communities in some way, giving either time or money.
“When you live in a town, you should do something for it,” he said.

Blanding interrupted his working life and service to tour much of the United States and parts of Canada by land and water.

“Milk was all I knew”

Blanding might have had milk running through his veins in his younger years. He spent a little time on the dairy farm that his father and brother owned.

Blanding Milk Co. was located in Greenville from 1911 to 1965. Blanding fondly recalls the company’s gas-electric milk trucks.
“Some people think this is a new trend, but they have been around,” he said.

After graduating from Greenville High School in 1946, he joined the U.S. Marines. Blanding was a staff sergeant during his four-year stint in the military.

Blanding married his first wife, Melody, in 1947 and they welcomed three children, Michael, Christopher and Rebecca, between 1949 and 1955.

Blanding worked at Sealtest Dairy in Jacksonville, Fla., while he was stationed in Florida during his military service.

“Milk was all I knew,” Blanding said.

Blanding moved back to Greenville and became an entrepreneur when he left the military.

He started by joining Blanding’s Dry Milk Sales as a partner in 1955. The company led to another business 10 years later, Blanding’s Truck Leasing Services.

Blanding kept a scrapbook with pictures of each of his trucks that he leased with the business’ names on them.

Blanding also owned Blanding’s Recreational Sales-John Deere from 1971 to 1974 before selling it.

In August 1969, former Gov. and Mrs. William Milliken greeted Ron Blanding, front right, and C.J. Gibson, back right. Blanding was Greenville’s mayor and Gibson was an executive at Gibson Refrigerator Co. — Courtesy photo

Public service

Blanding began serving on the Greenville City Council in 1965. He served as mayor pro-tem in 1966 followed by mayor from 1967 to 1970.

In 1970, Blanding resigned from the council to spend more time working with his various businesses and with his family.

Blanding then served as a director of First State Bank of Greenville from 1970 to 1978 and on the United Memorial Hospital Board from 1977 to 1978.

Blanding said he enjoyed all of the jobs and boards on which he served. His favorites were his three years as mayor and eight years as a bank director.

After divorcing his first wife, Blanding remarried in 1971 to his second wife, Irene, now 86.

Irene Blanding, who hails from the Upper Peninsula, came to Greenville to enjoy the Danish Festival. While in town, one of her friends set her up on two dates. Ron was to be the second one.

“I never got to meet the first date,” Irene said.

Ron showed up early to meet her.

“I never let her go home,” he joked.

The couple has been married for 40 years.

Touring North America

Irene’s first husband died before they met. She told Ron life is too short to wait for the things they want to do when they got married.

“Let’s not waste time,” Irene recalled telling Ron. “Let’s have some fun.”

That is exactly what they did. They moved to Florida soon after getting married.

Ron also collected classic and antique cars. He has owned about 150 cars in his lifetime, but never more than 13 at a time. His favorite was a 1910 Marmon.

“He loves antique cars.” Irene said. “It’s not (just for) recreation, it’s an obsession.”

The Blandings took the cars all over the country. Ron was involved in four or five antique car clubs, which allowed them to take traveling tours that usually lasted about four weeks.

They loaded up one of their classic cars on a trailer and drove to the start of the tours. The tours all sent the Blandings around several states in their classic cars before ending up where they started.

Ron parted with his beloved Marmon during one of the tours. A guy who had been eyeing the car asked Ron what the asking price would be if he sold it, Irene said.

“He just threw a number out there and the guy said, ‘Sold,’” she said, laughing.

The couple even had a 43-foot boat they used to see the world. Their biggest trip on the seas took them along the East Coast from Florida into Canada.

“Altogether, we have been through 140-some locks,” Ron Blanding noted of their adventures.

Ron Blanding

Settling down

The Blandings returned to Greenville in 2000, living just down the road from the house they originally lived in before moving to Florida.

Although Ron is retired, he still keeps pretty busy.

He has since served on the Greenville Planning Commission, Greenville Board of Review, State Boundary Commission and Montcalm County Board of Commissioners.

Ron also was president of the Greenville High School Alumni Association and president of the Grand Rapids Horseless Carriage Club (antique automobiles). He remains a member of the American Legion, Greenville Lions Club and Sigma Theta, a Greenville men’s club.
“I enjoyed doing all of it,” Ron Blanding said. “I like being involved.”

He feels fortunate to have experienced everything in his life and to still be healthy.

“I am proud of him,” Irene said of her husband.

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