HEART'S CONTENT, NL — A tireless municipal leader who served the Town of Heart's Content for almost 40 years has died.
Donald John Blundon, a retired high school principal who spent 39 years on council and 36 in the mayor's seat, died Monday after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 74.
A native of Bay de Verde, Blundon moved to Heart's Content in 1967 to teach at Holy Trinity High School — he eventually served as the school's principal before retiring in 1993. Six years later after he moved there, Blundon was appointed to the Heart's Content Local Improvement District committee. A year later in 1974, Blundon was elected to the first council. He went on to become the town's second mayor in 1977, and it was a position he held for the next 36 years.
Early in 2013, Blundon confirmed to The Compass he would not be running in the fall election.
"It's time to step down and let some of the younger people come in and get a taste of it," he said at the time. By 2013, Blundon was also already eight years into his battle with cancer.
Beyond municipal politics, Blundon was active in sports. He helped coach the Heart's Content Cables to multiple hockey championships in the Lower Trinity Conception Senior Athletes Association. Blundon was involved with the local harbour authority and also a volunteer board member with CBDC Trinity Conception from 2000-2011.
Carbonear-Trinity-Bay de Verde MHA Steve Crocker served on the CBDC board with Blundon and was also his pupil at Holy Trinity High in the 1980s.
"I think Don exemplified everything you could ever design as an educator," said Crocker when reached by The Compass Tuesday, quick to admit he may have received a talking to from Blundon during his days as a pupil.
Crocker remembers his former teacher and principal as someone who was there for his students, recalling in particular the many hours Blundon spent with his math class as a Grade 12 student.
"He would spend endless hours after school and lunchtimes tutoring anyone that needed help, and he was always there for his students."
As Crocker got older, he got to know Blundon as a friend. Following his byelection win in 2014, Crocker received the odd phone call from Blundon offering encouragement.
"Don was probably one of the most respected people I think in the region," Crocker said. "Don made a great contribution to the community in many ways, not only from the thousands of young people he taught … He was a pillar of the community."
Tolson Rendell, a town councillor that Blundon also coached in hockey, spent a dozen years with the former mayor on Heart's Content council. Blundon also taught Rendell's children.
"It's sad news in the community," said Rendell of his former council colleague's passing. "He's put in quite a battle for almost 13 years."
Rendell recalls attending a Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador AGM where Blundon received a 30 years of service pin. The man who gave him that pin was Oliver Langdon, the municipal affairs minister of the day. It just so happened Blundon and Langdon attended university together.
"It was pretty touching for me to be there with him at that time," Rendell recalled. "Don was really touched by that."
While they did not always see eye to eye, Rendell considered Blundon to be a man deeply committed to his community and a great person to work with. Rendell recalls a serious water main break that coincided with Blundon's 65th birthday in 2008. The mayor and the rest of council had to work hard to deal with a difficult situation, given it was the middle of winter. The town was forced to declare a state of emergency.
"He was considerate to everyone in the community and always making sure things were getting done," said Rendell. "That was a hard time, but we got through that thank God."
Rendell last spoke with Blundon in person during the municipal election this fall when the former mayor cast a ballot in the advance poll.
"He told me how Fred had just carried him up to vote, Fred Driscoll," Rendell recalled. "He wished us all well."
The wake for Blundon is at Green's Funeral Home in Winterton Nov. 1-2 from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. A funeral will be held at St. Mary's Anglican Church in Heart's Content Friday, Nov. 3 at 2 p.m., with interment to follow at St. Mary's Cemetery in Heart's Content.