Sylvia Antoinette Pangrazi Blackburn
Every once in a great while, we are blessed in our lives with that one amazing and incredible person who forever becomes part of us – somebody we looked up to and admired who becomes our teacher, our light in the dark and our protector.
Sylvia Antoinette Pangrazi Blackburn was born in Telluride on Oct. 9, 1922. Sylvia passed away Jan. 9, 2014, in her home of 53 years in Durango at the age of 91.
The Pangrazi family lived in Ophir, Colo., in the house behind the small post office after a move from a small cabin in Matterhorn. The family came to that small cabin from Austria in 1920 and brought with them the skills of gathering mushrooms, berries and an occasional snowshoe hare to aid their survival. All food was canned and stored for the winter with reliance on the Durango and Rio Grande Southern railroad for the main staples of pasta, cheese and grapes. The home, when remodeled in the 1980s, was found to be insulated by pasta carried by pack rats to their hiding places.
While a young woman, Sylvia worked for two summers in the boarding house of the Alta Mines before moving to Telluride. She revisited Alta Lakes last summer with her family, friends and youngest sister, recalling some of the menus, friendships and isolation from her family. Sylvia graduated from Telluride High School and Barnes Business College in Denver – her first trip beyond southwest Colorado, and returned to Telluride to work for an attorney and later for the Idarado Mine.
In 1945, the Pangrazi family moved from Ophir to a prominent two-story brick home on the first block of Main Street in Telluride.
On April 10, 1949, Sylvia married Keith Blackburn. Two sons were born of this union, Fred and Robert. The family resided in Telluride while Keith worked as an electrician for Telluride Mines and later owned Telluride Electric. They were forced to move to Durango because of the failing mining economy of Telluride in 1959. Keith became lift manager for Purgatory Ski Resort, where he is memorialized in the ski run known as Blackburn Bash. Sylvia worked as a professional secretary and office manager for Mauck and Stastney architects while raising her family.
A kind, loving and intelligent woman with a heart of gold, Sylvia was a devout Catholic, dedicated wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Her cookie jar was always full, her heart always open, and her arms never empty. She never uttered a cross word and always had abundant hugs for those she loved. Keeping up with her on her daily 6-mile walks through the Durango parks and trails was always a challenge. She may have been short, but her stride was long and fast, challenging those who dared join her.
Sylvia was an intrepid volunteer and president of the Mercy Hospital Auxiliary. In 2006, after 25 years of service, Sylvia was acknowledged by the lieutenant governor with a certificate of appreciation reading:
“To Sylvia Blackburn in recognition of your service to the State of Colorado and nomination for the 2006 for the Governor’s Volunteer Service Award. Your compassion and commitment exemplifies the spirit of volunteerism and makes Colorado a better place to live.”
Sylvia was an avid bridge and pinochle player and hosted many gatherings. She loved cooking, taught her family the values learned growing up in Telluride and Ophir.
She loved to take her grandchildren to watch the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge train as it roared through town, returning back home for ice cream and sometimes popcorn. She enjoyed nights of reading books such as the Bobsey Twins, Nancy Drew and nursery rhymes for her grandchildren. Her homemade dinner rolls and breadsticks were unbeatable and continue to be made in her honor. A traditional Austrian/Italian dish called “smorn” with homemade choke cherry syrup along with homemade elk sausage were breakfast favorites for her lucky grandchildren.
Sylvia is survived by her sisters Katherine Reece of Grand Junction and Ida McKnight of Montrose; sons Fred Blackburn and his wife Victoria Atkins of Cortez, and Bob Blackburn of Durango; grandchildren, Floss Blackburn of Grover and her sons Denali and Kaia Scoular, Forrest Blackburn and wife Caroline Blackburn of Loveland, Julianna Blackburn and Lucas Blackburn of Cortez; and great-grandchildren Denali & Kaia Scoular of Fort Collins and Chloe Blackburn of Loveland. Sylvia was preceded in death by her husband Keith in 2008. For those who had the privilege of knowing and loving Sylvia, her kind and gentle manner will always be remembered.
Funeral services are scheduled on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 at 10 a.m. at Saint Columba Catholic Church in Durango. Immediately after the mass will be a gathering in the church hall for all to share of loving and joyful stories. At a later time, Sylvia’s ashes will be buried next to her husband Keith and in her favorite places in the mountains near Ophir and Telluride. In lieu of flowers or gifts the family requests that donations be provided to Mercy Hospice so that their professional, loving and dedicated care of Sylvia and many more in her situation may continue.