NO. 17528 • 5 Jul 1927 29 – 29 Sep 2002
Died in Arlington, VA
Inurned in Hollywood Cemetery, Jackson, TN
Blair Artbur Ross, Jr. personified the citizen soldier and leader of character that West Point strives to provide. He was loyal and capable as an Army officer during war and peace, made distinguished contributions as an engineer and manager in the electric power industry for over three decades, and was a good husband and father to his beloved wife Mary and their three children. He stands proudly in the Long Gray Line, adding a special shade that reflects his unique spark and personality.
Blair was born in Jackson, TN, the son of an adventurous father whose various occupations led all around the globe. When he met Blair's mother Alice, she convinced him to settle in the Volunteer State. Growing up between Memphis, Jackson, and the Shiloh Battlefield Park, Blair picked up two defining, lifelong characteristics: a Southern drawl, and a love for trains, born from watching the 2 6 2s of the L&N and the GM&O pounding down the mainlines on the warm summer afternoons of his childhood.
In 1944, following graduation from the Columbia Military Academy, Blair entered Harvard University. Not taking to this bastion of New England academe, he left the following summer and promptly was drafted into the Army. After brief stateside service in an Anti Aircraft Artillery unit, he entered the preparatory program at Amherst.
Entering the Corps in 1946, Blair brought his rail fan roots with him, and his classmates recall the extraordinary depth of his fascination. One said, "I suspect you could have asked him the arrival time of the Trans Siberian Express in some burg on the steppes, and Blair would ask whether you wanted the east or westbound train.' His respect for the vagaries of electric current was reflected in his curious approach to "Juice' labs. Rain or shine, he wore his cadet rubber galoshes, explaining that one could not be too careful with this high voltage stuff. He did not want to be the shortest uninsulated path to the ground.
Upon graduation in 1950, Blair was commissioned into the Coast Artillery Corps in its waning days. On its
disestablishment, Blair chose to go to the Corps of Engineers, but initially was detailed Field Artillery for service in the Korean War. In 1952, Blair deployed to Korea, spending a year as an observation officer and batteryXO with the 1st Field Artillery Observation Battalion, directing counter battery fire for Eighth Army. Blair reestablished contact with fellow veterans many years later, attended a reunion in Colorado, and always enjoyed their correspondence.
Blair returned to Ft. Belvoir, VA, to begin his service with the Corps of Engineers, commanded an Engineer Officer Candidate School Company and then was assigned as district executive officer in the Mississippi River Engineer District office in Memphis, TN. Back in his home state, he made frequent visits to his hometown, where he met and began courting Mary, who became his wife within a year.
Blair then earned a master's degree in electrical engineering at Purdue University, followed by an assignment with the USMA Electrical Engineering Department. The birth of their three children Blair Jr., Elisabeth, and Susan came over the course of these years.
In 1960, Blair embarked on a second career with the American Electric Power Corporation, based in New York City. Blair, Mary, and the kids established their new home in Ridgewood, NJ, where they would remain for the next two decades.
Blair steadily ascended the corporate ladder, from systems planning engineer through senior vice president for Energy Resources Planning, His professional responsibilities spanned every aspect of the industry, from power generation to distribution to fuel supply, and, to his enduring pleasure, studies of the electrification of the U.S. railway system.Blair contributed finely honed professional standards, a "people" focus, and a rock solid foundation of integrity and straightforward communication, all of which he attributed to his time as a cadet and an officer. Blair also imbued his perspective and core values in his children, lessons that served them well. All three children went to college: Blair Jr. '78 to West Point, Elisabeth to Utah State University, and Susan to Vassar College.
In 1980, Blair and Mary moved, with the relocation of corporate offices, to Columbus, OH, where they remained until Blair's retirement in 1992. During this time, two of their children were married and five grandchildren were born, putting into action much family related travel within the United States and abroad. Blair and Mary moved smoothly into their roles as grandparents, sparing no travel effort or expense to be a part of their grandchildren's lives. They left Ohio in 1997, intending to settle permanently in Franklin, TN.
Tragically, an untimely stroke took Mary's life shortly after their relocation. The devastating loss of his companion of 42 years deeply affected Blair, reinforcing his sensitivity and his appreciation for relationships with family and friends. Unfortunately, Blair's health began to deteriorate following Mary's death. Within two years, Blair relocated to Arlington, VA, to be closer to his son and eldest daughter. Blair then happily rekindled relationships with many DC area classmates, who warmly welcomed him and provided generous support in ensuring that he participated in their routine gatherings and in his Class's 50th reunion, one of his proudest moments.
In September 2002, Blair succumbed to his debilitating illness, but his final years were marked by frequent contact with family and friends. To the end, he had an undying respect for West Point and what it stands for. He rested easy after his final walk across the Plain, shoulder to shoulder with his classmates, on that fine autumn day in 2000. He had come back to an institution that so deeply influenced his life as his life did ours. Be thou at peace.
-- His children, friends, and classmates