By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor

For Deb and Delbert Blare, pictured above, their 45-year marriage was framed with love and faith.  He was always her hero – even before he gave his life to save the life of a total stranger.

We often hear stories of people who put their lives at risk to save others.  Many times these are military stories or stories of first responders.  It is part of their job – their ‘service’ – to react to these situations no matter the cost. They deservingly become known as heroes.

However, from time to time, heroes also appear as extraordinary John Doe’s who see someone in distress and are selfless enough to step forward to offer assistance.  It is not part of the job; it is simply their character.  Such an incident occurred in Melbourne, Florida this past Saturday … and the selfless rescuer was a local native.

Delbert Blare grew up in Haywood; his wife Debra grew up in Owings.  After living in Ohio for years, they moved just a couple of years ago to Melbourne, Florida and were residing in a senior living complex there.  The couple and some visiting family members were taking a stroll along the beach on Saturday when they noticed someone struggling out in the ocean and calling for help.  Two other witnesses had already hurried out into the water to help, but were returning because the surf was so rough.  The stranger continued to struggle to avoid drowning.

Delbert Blare, age 65, removed his shoes, emptied his pockets, and ran for the water, knowing he would be facing a dangerous riptide, but also feeling that having had lifeguard training earlier in life, he might be able to save this person.  And he did!

As he reached the man and began to bring him toward the shoreline, the other two men, knowing he would be weary from managing the rescue alone, returned to the water and met him. They brought the drowning man to safety.  However, it was Delbert who was then left struggling with the tide carrying him … no doubt exhausted from the strength of the current and his labor to save a life.

Oddly, after having refused transport to a hospital, the man Blare had saved realized the man who rescued him was still in the water and wanted to go back into the water to save him.   It was Deb Blare, Delbert’s wife,  who told the man he couldn’t do that because he had just managed to survive what could have been a fatal situation.

“Someone had called 911 and a deputy and several others got into the water and finally managed to bring my husband to shore,” Deb recalled.  “His heart was not beating but they brought him back and then transported him to a hospital.  His eyes were fixed and dilated and the doctor said that likely meant brain damage, but every time I spoke to him he opened his eyes and looked at me so we had hope of him pulling through.”

Sadly, he passed at 5 a.m. on Sunday morning.

Delbert Blare had studied riptides so that he would be familiar with what to do if his grandchildren were visiting and needed help. Blare’s knowledge turned out to be a blessing for Bob Shepard of Spencer, Indiana.

Strong faith, courage and determination have been exhibited by this couple before.   Delbert suffered a tractor injury at one time while the couple lived in Ohio.  Doctors said he would never walk again; however, he was back to work in four months!

More recently, the couple weathered a “real storm” – Hurricane Irma, which damaged their residence, taking their roof, their carport, and leaving the ceilings of their home with water damage.  Because their house was still livable, they were told they did not qualify for FEMA assistance.  So Delbert got to work, and along with help from people from their church and discounts from Home Depot, they had a new roof on their home in three days!

Deb Blare is legally blind and cannot live alone.  A diabetic with visual impairments, she is unable to drive and relied on her husband a great deal.  Now, along with suffering the loss of her husband, she will likely have to move closer to some of her children and depend on them for help.  There is also further home damage to repair.  Recovery will be a long and difficult process.

“Since we moved to Florida, we spent lots of time on the beach.  Although my husband was a very strong swimmer and very healthy, we weren’t really beach swimmers.  But we enjoyed sitting on the beach and walking the beach.  We liked to watch the waves crash on the shore; we hunted sea shells and found some very unusual ones following the hurricane.  We saw lots of rainbows and it became a sanctuary for us,” she stated.

Those beautiful memories will remain although they will now be somewhat tainted by the memory of the horror of what transpired on October 14th.   Despite her loss, Deb can only speak of how proud she is of what her husband did for someone else.  She spoke with gratitude of the support group that has helped her moment by moment to get through this ordeal.

Members of their church set up a GoFundMe account to help with the expenses that the family will now have to face – funeral expenses, hurricane repairs, and moving expenses.

Although she was thankful for their thoughtfulness, Deb said, “Hurricane Irma left many in Florida without homes.  Some lost everything, and lives were lost as a result.  I feel badly that people are willing to help us when there are so many others who have suffered as well.”

Bob Shepard of Spencer, Indiana was the man whose life Delbert Blare saved.  “We were very touched by comments his wife offered on the GoFundMe page.  She is very saddened that saving her husband took my husband’s life.  But that is the way Delbert lived; he always stood ready to help someone no matter what,” Deb said.

A celebration of his life was held at their church, Cornerstone Church of God in Melbourne, on Wednesday. Blare’s body will be returned to Shinnston for a private family viewing at Harmer Funeral Home.  A public graveside service has been tentatively scheduled at Jett Cemetery on O’Dell’s Knob near Wyatt on Monday.

Delbert Blare was the son of the late Imogene Pearl and Challens Blare of Pine Bluff.  He is survived by his loving wife of 45 years, Debra; their three children – Delbert Blare Jr. of Freeport, OH, Hope (Mrs. Patrick) Jordan of Cambridge, OH, and Crystal (Mrs. Brian) Huff of Moundsville, WV; five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.  One sister, Mary Kuhens of Shinnston, also survives.

Mr. Blare worked for Dominion Transmission for 36 years and was employed by Walmart in Cambridge, OH following his retirement; he later transferred to Walmart in Melbourne, Florida.  He was a devout Christian and active in the Cornerstone Church of God in Melbourne.

Anyone wishing to help lessen the burden for the family may do so by visiting www.gofundme.com; at the top of the page, type in the name Delbert Blare and hit search.  A picture of the couple will appear and donations can be made along with offering condolences.