Editor’s note: This is one of a continuing online series of profiles of the more than 12,000 Hoosiers who have died from COVID-19. The stories are from 12 Indiana newspapers, including The Republic, who collaborated to create the collection to highlight the tremendous loss that the pandemic has created. The series appears daily at therepublic.com.
Name: Kim Blanchar
Died: April 16
Kim Blanchar loved life aggressively. She loved language, she loved people, she loved to laugh. Giving life to others put breath in her lungs.
Were it not for her bright mind, she might’ve been in a vegetative state years ago. That’s what multiple sclerosis, a disease the affects the brain and spinal cord, does. But as her body gave way over the years, her all-consuming curiosity kept her going.
The former Brebeuf Jesuit teacher died peacefully of the coronavirus at IU West Hospital in Avon on April 16 at the age of 68.
Blanchar was a cheerleader at Jefferson High School in Lafayette, where she graduated in 1969. And there might not be a more apt way to describe how she lived her life.
“She had that contagious kind of personality,” said Linda Long, who knew Blanchar since childhood. “When you were around her, she lit up a room.”
Blanchar loved French, which she taught at Brebeuf, and she loved to travel. She took trips with a group of high school friends even after her declining health forced her to retire from teaching. A group of eight women visited Las Vegas in 2005.
“She was on her own going through the casinos in Las Vegas and just having the best time,” Long said. “We would have so much fun because she made everybody laugh. She never was talking about the negative things in her life.”
Her infectious personality was a staple at Brebeuf. She coached cheerleading, was a speech meet judge and spent time as an assistant golf coach — despite not knowing much about the sport.
“If there was a need, she’d give it a try,” Bowman said.
She had to retire in 2004 as her health declined and caused complications.
Still, her spirit persisted.
As her health continued to decline, Blanchar moved out of her home and in with her mother, Beverly Howard, in 2014. The loss of independence and social opportunity was devastating.
“Socializing was so important to her,” her sister Tammy Bowman said. “She loved to go exercise. She loved to talk sports. She loved the Indianapolis Colts. She loved the Pacers.”
She found ways to socialize when possible, attending various disability fellowship groups.
Last year, Bowman and her niece took Blanchar to her 50th high school reunion.
“We couldn’t hardly get in the door. There were so many people,” Tammy Bowman said. “She had people coming up to her nonstop.”
“Some lady walked up to her and said, ‘I don’t think you know me, but I wanted to introduce myself,’” Anna Bowman remembered a woman telling her aunt. “‘You made an impact on me.’”
Yet slowly, Blanchar’s larger-than-life personality was sapped. Anxiety and depression set in as her connections to the people she loved became less frequent. Eventually, she moved into a nursing home, hoping that it might lead to more opportunities for socialization.
“Once my sister was able to get to know the residents, she loved it,” Bowman said. “She was always their cheerleader for life. Part of that was the teacher in her.”
There were plenty of issues in the nursing home. The level of care she received left much to be desired, Bowman said. But whether she was in the dining room or the movie room, Bowman said Blanchar “wanted to make sure everybody was included and nobody was left out.”
Blanchar was taken to the hospital in April, having caught the coronavirus.
Despite the void Blanchar’s death leaves, her legacy lives on.
Since Blanchar’s death, her qualities have become all the more apparent in the lives of those who knew her.
“A little bit of all of us died when Kim died,” Long said. “If we could treat others like Kim treated us, the world would be a better place.”
— Contributed by the Indianapolis Star