Meet the area resident who celebrated his 100th birthday this month

A century. One hundred years. In 1919, the Grand Canyon was designated a National Park. Also that year, the electric toaster was invented by Charles Strite. And, John Blocher was born.

Now a local resident, Blocher’s birthday was celebrated by more than a hundred well-wishers last Sunday at an open house in the community room of the Oxford Methodist Church with cards, congratulations and refreshments. The party was held on the actual day of his birthday.

A timeline created by his family ran along two walls of the room tracking the path of his life with notable other events from some of the years including completion of the Empire State Building in 1931 and introduction of SpaghettiOs in 1965.

Burger chain makes Butler County debut at Bridgewater Falls

PHOTOS: See how 1970s Middletown dealt with major snowstorms

In comments made to an appreciative audience early in the open house time, he said one of the smart things he and his late wife, Phyllis, did was moving to Oxford where they made a lot of friends.

“Church meant a lot to Phyllis and me over the years,” he said, adding with a smile, “I hope it will be here another hundred years. You won’t be. I won’t be, but the church will.”

Everybody then broke into singing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” and he held on to his walker for some dance steps during the singing.

Earlier, he did some singing of his own with a solo during the offertory of the Methodist Church service that morning, singing “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind” with the Chancel Choir.

That prompted one person at the party to say, “There was not a dry eye in the church.”

He was a 1936 graduate of Berea High School, which inducted him into its Alumni Hall of Fame. The plaque presented to him on that occasion noted he was retired from Battelle’s Columbus Laboratories and held 16 patents. He had worked as a chemist and was a researcher involved in Chemical Vapor Deposition efforts. He was also part of the Manhattan Project which led to development of the atomic bomb.

He is a graduate of Baldwin Wallace College, which presented him with an Alumni Merit Award in 1965 and he has a doctoral degree from Ohio State University in 1946.

The Blochers bought a home in Oxford in 1977 but rented it to a professor and moved themselves into the house in 1981 making them local residents.

He then threw himself into the community and took on several efforts to call attention to the natural world as well as protecting it.

He was the curator of the Silvoor Biological Sanctuary created off Silvoor Lane by the noted biologist Robert Hefner. Blocher served as curator for 25 years and stepped down from that position in November 2006. His efforts there and with the Oxford Audubon Society brought him recognition in December 1993 as a Citizen of the Years for that year’s annual recognition of contributions to the community.

He downplayed his contributions with the Silvoor Biological Sanctuary but recalls that time fondly.

“It was a lot of fun, particularly with the people like the Eshbaughs (Hardy and Barb). There are a great bunch of people here,” he said. “It was just something to do. Something needed to be done, so I pitched in.”

He has always enjoyed music and singing and directed the King Avenue Methodist Choir in Columbus from 1967 to 1972.

Of his solo in church that morning, he said, “They say I did alright. That’s another thing that goes downhill.”

He was not going to be on the program for a concert Monday evening when the Baldwin Wallace College choir was to be in Cincinnati for a concert but he was invited as a special guest for the evening.

Asked later about his recollections of his 100 years, he said he had a critical job in the Manhattan Project, one of 12 people who oversaw operation of analytics and kept the mass spectrometer running.

“We analyzed stuff that came off the production line,” he said.

On a table in front of the beginning of his life timeline were a number of the awards and recognitions he had received in his lifetime as well as a poem written by his late wife which he said he later put to music.

“We collaborated on things like that,” he said.

She died in January 2013 and one of their children, John, is deceased. On hand for the 100th birthday celebration, however, were his other four children—Joann, Kathy, Mary and Richard.

He now resides at the Knolls of Oxford, where he stays involved in a variety of activities including a writing group.

“I write anything that comes to mind. We had fun doing limericks,” he said, adding that another writing exercise for the group was to produce Haiku.

Looking back on his years, he said the relationships stand out.

“I made a lot of friends in my lifetime,” he said, but had only one secret for living a long life. “If you know good doctors, you can do it.”

About the Author