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Robert Strother Blackwell passed away on September 7, 2021, at the age of 84 years. Born in Dallas, TX, in 1937 to Mary Jo and Hearst Blackwell, he grew up in the Highland Park and University Park neighborhoods and was active in Boy Scouts throughout his childhood and ROTC during high school. During the summers after World War II, he and his family would retreat from the Dallas heat to a family cabin on a forest service lease near the shore of Brainerd Lake, Ward, Colorado, which planted in him a love for the Colorado Mountains.
After graduating from Highland Park High School in January 1955, he matriculated at the University of Texas, Austin, and graduated in 1960 with a BS in Electrical Engineering. During college, he joined the Texas Air National Guard. After graduating, he moved to Littleton, Colorado, and began work as an engineer with defense contractor Martin Marietta. He was involved with various projects, most notable being the Mariner Mars flybys, and the Titan Missile project. His tenure at Martin lasted from 1960 through 1974, briefly interrupted in 1961 when his Colorado Air National Guard unit was activated for 11 months during the Berlin Crisis.
In 1965, he and his first wife, Bonnie Blackwell, moved to Double Header Mountain just east of Aspen Park, Colorado, and in 1968, Robert purchased his first propane delivery truck, affectionately called the Pig. He started Bob’s Gas and Chemical and would deliver propane to homes throughout the mountains of Jefferson County when not at work at Martin. In 1974 he left his engineering job to run the propane business full time, eventually moving operations to Pine Junction, Colorado. At around the same time, he renamed Bob’s Gas to Action Gas, and he purchased Independent Gas Company, a small propane retail operation in Granby, Colorado. He started doing business under the Independent Propane name at both locations. Both companies flourished under his leadership, still running strong today, employing 25 people and servicing thousands of customers between the Pine Junction and Granby operations.
Along with his business, Robert was very involved in both the National Propane Gas Association and Colorado Propane Gas Association. Along with being NPGA’s elected State Director for Colorado as recently as 2020, he served on the Board of Directors for both organizations, and held numerous committee memberships throughout his tenure. His skills as a talented engineer and critical mind were most appreciated on NPGA’s Technology, Standards and Safety Committee where he was most active ensuring reasonable policy changes that did not place undue burden on the propane marketers like himself.
In addition to his business activities, Robert was at various times a private pilot, a Boy Scout Master, a volunteer ski patroller at Geneva Basin, amateur radio operator, and served as treasurer for the Intercanyon Volunteer Fire Department throughout the 1980s. He has been on the boards of many local organizations, most recently the Homestead Water Board, and was an active member of the Conifer chapter of Kiwanis. Throughout his life, he remained very involved in local, state, and national Republican politics. Most notable were his contributions to Colorado’s 25 th house district, the Jefferson County School Board, and membership on the influential Judiciary Committee for Jefferson and Gilpin Counties.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Mary Jo and E. Hearst Blackwell, and his brother Edwin
Blackwell. He is survived by his wife, Merida Watson Blackwell, his adult children John Blackwell (Kristin) and Amy Blackwell, and his grandchildren John Blackwell, Anthony Scalercio, Gianna Scalercio, Gabriella Scalercio, and R. Walker Blackwell.
A Memorial Service will be held for Mr. Blackwell on October 30, 2021 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at The Barn at Evergreen Memorial Park, 26624 N. Turkey Creek Rd., Evergreen, Colorado 80439.
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