Beyond the mystery: Barbara Blackstone
Barbara Blackstone has left an imprint in the hearts of many who knew her. In 1987, her life may have ended early at only 30-years-old, but her spirit lives on in the memories of her family, her co-workers and her once students from New Lisbon High School. Last week. The Messenger reported on the upcoming 30 year anniversary of her murder;
this week we take a took at the woman Barbara Blackstone was.
To those who knew her, she was known as Barb. She was a tall and lanky woman, with an easy-going way about her and a genuine smile that was full of life. That approachable demeanor combined with her professional ways, landed her a teaching position as the business education teacher in the mid 1980s at New Lisbon High School.
“She had come in to apply to be a substitute teacher. She was very professional in the way she carried herself. I took one look at her resume and offered her a teaching position,” stated former New Lisbon High School principal, Ken Adams.
Adams went on to state that not only did Barb have a superior education, but she also had experience in the real world working in business--qualifications he was sure would be of benefit to the students. “She was extremely pleasant and very sharp,” said Adams.
Former shop teacher Sy Wera shared Adams’ sentiments when remembering Barbara. “She was deeply interested in the kids,” he said. That interest in her students made a lasting impression. “Mrs. Blackstone came to New Lisbon High School my junior year (85-86) to teach Business Education. I remember it being a time when computers were just starting
out at school,” said former student Christy Litkea-Johnson of New Lisbon. “I remember Mrs. Blackstone as a young, fun, and full of life person, teacher and friend.”
As outgoing as Barb was, there was also another side of her. She was extremely private about her personal life according to former New Lisbon High School librarian Geraldine Heesch. Heesch was not only a co-worker of Barb’s, but the two women bonded in a great friendship. “I don’t think I will ever get over her murder,” said
Heesch. “She was such a beautiful person, so intelligent. She enjoyed her work and her students. We were best friends. But even as best friends, there is so much I did not know about her. She was deeply private,” commented Heesch. “I will never understand why it happened.”
Heesch said that Barb and her husband, Tom, moved to Lyndon Station after Barb completed school and gained experience in the business world in Dayton, Ohio. The pair lived off a rural road in a house the two built together. That Lyndon Station property was where Barb came up missing on July 9, 1987. It would be nearly a month later
on August 5, when a hunter, who was scouting land, would discover her remains, 30 yards off a rural Blanchardville road, in Lafayette County.
“When I remember her, I always think of her still being 30-years-old.” said Barb’s older sister, Gail Douglass. “She was my best friend, my confidant - the person I would go to for advice. She was the glue that held our family together,” Douglass noted.
Older just by 15 months, Douglass considered her younger sister to be her encourager. “She’s the one who convinced me to go back to school. The day she came up missing, I had tried to get ahold of her earlier in the day. I needed some advice, her advice. Hours later is when I found out she was missing.”
Judy Strutt is Barb’s and Gail’s younger sister. She said that over the years she, Gail, and Barb’s widowed husband, Tom, still get together and yearly plant flowers at her grave. Both of the sisters carry an ache in their hearts on how much life and family moments Barb has missed, including watching their children grow into adulthood.
All who remembered the once young, full of life, vibrant teacher, hold out hope that one day her murder will be solved. “Someone out there knows something,” was a comment that was repeated over and over again and from various people.
Wanting closure and justice to be served is most likely the reason a former student of Barb’s has offered a $25,000 reward. That student is Marc Andreessen, co-founder of the web browser Netscape. Years ago, when initially announcing the reward, Andreessen reportedly stated that she was the best teacher he ever had. The Messenger reached out to Andreessen for a comment; however, due to traveling and scheduling conflicts was unable share his memories of the teacher he respected.
The Messenger was unable to make contact with Tom Blackstone.
The next article in our series on Barbara Blackstone will take a look at the 30-year old investigation. If you have information on this case you may contact the Juneau County Sheriff's Office at (608) 847-5649, or Juneau County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-826-8477.