Jon Edson Blasius was born in Detroit, Michigan in March 1950 at the Henry Ford Hospital to very loving parents, Richard and Maxine Blasius. Jon and his older brother Karl lived with their parents through high school in Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge, Michigan. Jon died March 4, in accord with his wishes in his home in Klamath Falls under the care of Klamath Hospice and several local home health care professionals.
Jon’s life had several musical themes. He was introduced to violin in 4th grade, then switched to cello in 5th grade. He took private cello lessons for many years and sang with choirs at Ferndale High School. When Jon graduated from high school in 1968 the draft for the Vietnam War threatened any ambitions for near term higher education, and because he didn’t enjoy formal classroom education anyway, he did not pursue attending college. As an alternative, Jon became an apprentice at a music store in suburban Detroit. There he learned how to repair violins. Later he went through an apprenticeship as an industrial tool and die maker in a machine shop. One of Jon’s favorite early musical experiences was pure Motown. At age 17 he worked at the Michigan State Fair in Detroit wheeling carts of lemonade, popcorn, and hot dogs. There he got to see the entire Motown Review: Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, the Four Tops, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, The Temptations, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and The Supremes. He marveled at Gladys Knight in a sequined gown, The Pips’ perfect synchronization, and was struck how he could hear Aretha Franklin’s and Gladys Knight’s strong voices soar over the band and the PA system.
In 1970 Jon spent six months traveling through Europe. He visited England, Holland, Austria, Germany, Greece, Yugoslavia, and Turkey. Along the way, he met a group of Pakistanis who wanted to start a taxi service, and together they drove a ’56 Mercedes from Munich to Istanbul. His traveling companions were amazed when they learned Jon could fix cars, a skill that came in handy when they broke down several times.
Jon moved west to California in 1975. After visiting Karl and his family in Pasadena, Jon moved north and settled in Grass Valley, CA. In 1979 Jon married Debbie Best, and the couple moved into a house Jon built in Grass Valley. He lived there for the next 22 years. Sadly, Debbie passed away in 1991. Jon married Robin Meinhart in 1992. Jon made a living using his craftsman skills, building wood burning stoves and repairing musical instruments. He also became a fixture in the local bluegrass music scene playing fiddle, sometimes under the stage name “Jeb Blazes.” Jon and Robin divorced in 2000.
Jon moved to Klamath Falls, OR in 2001. There he found a community which supported a high quality orchestral music program in their schools, and he established his ideal life as a luthier, repairing and building stringed instruments, as a music educator teaching out of his home and in summer music camps, and as a fiddler in local bluegrass, country and popular music groups. For 9 years he performed all the string instrument repair work for the Klamath Falls School District.
For about a decade, Jon set himself the goal of hand building at least one stringed instrument each year. This resulted in 17 hand-built violas, violins, a mandolin, and one very big guitar. Many of his instruments were unique artistic expressions, each with its own whimsical, sometimes mystical theme. For example, an underwater-themed violin is carved in the back like a sea turtle shell, with sea horses for sound holes, a chin rest carved like a scallop shell with an inlaid pearl, and a mermaid’s shapely form carved into the scroll like the figurehead of a ship’s bow.
Jon’s long career as a musician included stints as a member of the Pigtown Flingers (1973-1975, Detroit, fiddle), The Badland Serenaders (1975-1977, Grass Valley, fiddle and bass), Steep Hollow Bluegrass Band (1976-1979, Grass Valley, fiddle), The Red Berry Pickers, Dusty Ellison, an Irish band, and as a cellist in a classical trio in Klamath Falls playing at weddings and other private parties. Jon played First Chair Cello in the Klamath Symphony from 2001 to 2009 and served some time on the Board of Directors.
While Jon made his living as a tradesman, he was erudite and generous with his knowledge. Jon loved to talk about all aspects of humanity and especially music, and he was also a good listener. Of politics, when a family member asked Jon if his pony-tail and long beard indicated that he was a hippie, his answer was, “I don’t believe I have ever betrayed the Revolution.”
In Detroit, Jon developed a taste for exotic and spicy foods and frequented international restaurants. Vindaloo curry was his favorite along with Middle Eastern cuisines, and Thai cuisine (strong also in Klamath Falls!). He also enjoyed good hearty German fare. Later, Jon developed a special fondness for game meat such as raccoon, bear, possum, and bighorn sheep. Mountain goat was a favorite which he ranked in flavor with ‘possum and ‘coon. Jon brewed his own beer and often traded instrument repair work for elk meat and weed.
Jon was first diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer in 2009 and very nearly lost his life to the disease. However, he pulled through thanks to aggressive medical treatments, hospice support, and help from his friends, including Lisa Pratt, RN, his brother Karl, his ex-spouse Robin Meinhart, and many members of the Klamath Falls musical community. Jon’s cancer was managed and he was able to enjoy another 10 years of life. He continued to make music, (re)build stringed instruments, and love his dearest friends.
In 2018 Jon’s cancer failed to respond to new treatments, and next year he reentered hospice care. Amazingly, Jon never felt the pain all too common for prostate cancer. He kept a positive attitude about his illness stating it was more of an inconvenience than anything else. During this last phase of life Jon listened to music, public television programming, and NPR public affairs programming, while continuing to enjoy his garden, indoor fish pond, Thai food, and visits from neighbors and friends.
Jon is survived by his brother Karl & sister-in-law Elisa, his niece Antara, her husband Roy and their daughter Aven, his nephew Ethan, his wife Natelie and their son Hans. He is also survived by cousins on his father’s (Blasius) side in the Midwest, and on his mother’s (Phelps) side, in the South, Midwest, and Northeast. He is also survived by many friends in Klamath Falls, Southern Oregon, and Northern California.
Jon’s family wishes to express gratitude to the four professional, in-home medical caretakers who assisted and befriended Jon during his last months. We also thank the Klamath Hospice team of nurses, social workers, doctors, and caretakers for their many services that allowed him to live out his days in the comfort of his own home. In lieu of flowers Jon’s family asks that any memorial donations be directed to Klamath Hospice.
A celebration of Jon’s life will be held at the most practical time considering the current coronavirus pandemic. Service arrangements will be announced at a later date.
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