Hit-and-run victim was dedicated family man, hard workerGreg “Blackie” Blackburn died doing what he did seven days a week: working. “Greg was a dedicated employee,” said Blackburn’s cousin Michelle Johnson.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Greg “Blackie” Blackburn died doing what he did seven days a week: working.
“Greg was a dedicated employee,” said Blackburn’s cousin Michelle Johnson. “He kind of stuck to himself, but he was really into his work. He worked and looked after his parents mostly.”
Blackburn — who died after being run over by a truck at the Culkin rest area where he worked as a janitor — is survived by his mother, Shirley Blackburn. He was preceded in death by his father, John “Jack” Blackburn.
The man who hit Blackburn and then fled the scene, Gregory Allen Scherber, is facing charges of criminal vehicular homicide and fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle. He is in custody at Carlton County Jail.
Johnson, her mother Bonnie Newton, and Johnson’s daughter Morgan attended the initial hearing for Scherber last Friday at the Carlton County Courthouse.
“Listening to all those past charges [which, according to the probation officer, included a previous DWI, theft, disorderly conduct, several domestic assault charges, terroristic threats and violation of harassment order], I can’t believe [Scherber] was able to walk the streets,” she said. “Obviously he wasn’t stable.”
Johnson said her cousin was always there for his parents. First he helped look after his father, who suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). For the past 20 years, Johnson said, he has lived with and looked after his mother, who is 89.
“[Greg’s death] has been hard on all of us, but it’s been especially tough on her,” Johnson said, noting that the mother and son enjoyed watching professional sports — particularly the Twins and the Vikings — together. “I was the one who had to wake her up and tell her that her son wasn’t coming home from work.
“He was her only child.”
In addition to working at the rest area for about five years, Blackburn was also a contract newspaper carrier for the Duluth News Tribune, delivering the Pine Journal and Northland Smart Shopper as well. He was featured in a Pine Journal story in January 2012 for calling in an early morning garage fire and potentially saving the lives of three people sleeping in the adjacent residence.
“He was a hard worker. He was always there before the [newspaper] truck at 2 a.m. And he cared so much about his customers,” said Sue Anderson, Cloquet field representative for the News Tribune. “He did his job seven days a week for 12 years and only called in sick once. He’s going to be missed by a lot of people in Cloquet.”
Johnson said her cousin was well liked at both his jobs, and at Walmart, where he often shopped in the wee hours of the morning after he finished early morning paper deliveries.
“I got Facebook messages telling how he will be missed,” she said. “They said he always said good morning to everyone.”
People like Blackburn’s friends from Walmart and a generous stranger have helped make the loss more tolerable, Johnson said.
“We were in the McDonald’s drive through Saturday morning, five of us, and when we got to the window, I went to give the card to the lady and she said ‘Your bill’s been paid for,’” Johnson said. “I wanted to say thanks … that was the first bright thing that’s happened since Greg died.
Funeral services for Greg Blackburn are set for Thursday, June 27, at Nelson Funeral Care in Cloquet, with visitation at 2 p.m. and the funeral at 3 p.m. Blackburn, who served in the U.S. Navy for a year during the Vietnam era, will be buried beside his father at Fort Snelling National Cemetery. Blackburn also enjoyed fishing and camping.
When asked if the family needed anything, Johnson’s answer was to the point.
“Justice,” she said. “That man needs to be held accountable for what he’s done.”
Johnson said she did not think her cousin was acquainted with Scherber in any way.