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Published: Monday, 9/17/2001 - Updated: 2 years ago

Science teacher tended orchard

GENOA - Thomas W. Blum, a former Genoa Middle School teacher, died of cancer Saturday in his home. He was 59.

Mr. Blum taught earth science for 35 years until his retirement last year, said wife, Jennifer.

Over the course of his career, Mr. Blum coached basketball and golf.

“He loved teaching and he loved having the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young people,” Mrs. Blum explained. “But he did not love the direction that public education has been heading.”

For many years, a hallmark of Mr. Blum's earth science class was the grinding and polishing of gemstones his students did.

He felt the exercise was an effective, hands-on way to teach the different properties of stones and minerals found in the region. It was a hit with the youngsters as well.

But with the advent of state proficiency tests, and the emphasis placed on preparing students for them, he abandoned gem polishing.

“Gem polishing was not `teaching to the test,'” Mrs. Blum explained. “So he dropped it from his curriculum and reshaped his style of instruction. He was not an admirer of proficiency tests.

“But a lot of students have held on to their gemstones,” Mrs. Blum continued. “Some have had them mounted on necklaces and rings. They would come to school open houses with them years later.”

Mr. Blum was devoted to the Red Barn family orchard he tended in Ottawa County's Allen Township.

The orchard began 25 years ago with a few fruit trees. It grew into a 1,000-tree orchard of sweet and tart cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, pears, and apples, which he lovingly watched over, she said.

Worried about the orchard as his health slipped in spring, he recruited brother-in-law Joel Pinkerton and Mr. Pinkerton's sons, Devin, Kyle, and Sam to maintain the trees. Father-in-law Ray Schell mans the stand from which the fresh fruit is sold.

He and Mrs. Blum were married 16 years.

Mr. Blum was a member of St. John's United Church of Christ, which he joined last year after years of attending services there with his wife and daughter.

Surviving are his wife, Jennifer; daughter, Katie; mother, Maxine Blum, and brother, James.

Services will be private.

The body will be in the Robinson-Henn-Brossia Funeral Home after 2 p.m. tomorrow.

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