Larry Blackburn

Optimist Club member Larry Blackburn of Caldwell. Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2013 (Greg Kreller/IPT)

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Family man, political activist and insurance salesman. With such a full plate already, one may wonder why Larry Blackburn, 70, goes back for more.

But he does just that. For the last 42 years, Blackburn has been involved in the Optimist International organization. The club helps youth and empowers young people in the community. The organization’s motto is “Friend of Youth” — a driving force for Blackburn. His most recent role with the Optimists has been leading them as governor of the Pacific Northwest.

“Each club does what they want in their own community,” Blackburn explained.

The Caldwell branch specializes in the Communications Contest for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. In 2013, Blackburn personally raised $2,500 to go to the scholarships for the contest.

Blackburn also orchestrated the addition of another award for the contest. Two $5,000 scholarships are now given to students in the Northwest; one for deaf or hard of hearing students and another for hearing and speaking students.

Blackburn’s work with Optimist International has brought him to different parts of Oregon, Idaho, Washington and Canada, giving him a taste for travel.

In the last several years, Blackburn has boarded planes and ships to take him to South America, Alaska, Romania, several continental states and Hawaii. His son’s connections make traveling easier.

“My son, Taft Blackburn, is a colonel in the Army, currently stationed in Moscow, Russia,” Blackburn said. “When we visited him in Romania, we met Vice President (Joe) Biden.”

Blackburn, who attended the event with his wife, Florence, described the event as interesting.

“There were kids there,” Blackburn recalled, laughing at the memory. “I remember Biden telling the mother, ‘I like children, it’s adults I don’t like.’”

Even with Optimist International and traveling to keep him busy, Blackburn still finds time to work with his church: The Oregon Trail Church of God. It’s the same church where he met his wife.

“I’m really involved in that church,” he said. “That’s where I met Flo. I went to Sunday school class (and) she was the only one I knew, so I sat next to her every week. She never let on that she was interested in me.”

A few weeks later, a friend told him Florence liked him. He asked her out and the rest is a history they’ve been making together for the last four years.

Blackburn has spent a large majority of his life in Idaho. He was raised in Middleton and after graduating high school, he made his way north to the University of Idaho. Majoring in education, he earned a bachelor’s in secondary education and a master’s in school administration. His schooling was accompanied by training in the Army ROTC, which sent him to Germany for two years.

That background might explain his new venture.

“I’ve been getting very political lately,” Blackburn said about the latest addition to his plate. “I’ve been writing our congressmen.”

With passion and drive fueling him, Blackburn has become the person he is today and a mentor for the youth of Idaho.

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