One of Worthington’s first student ambassadors dies in Arizona

PAYSON, Ariz. -- Ed Blair, who in 1956 was one of the two first student ambassadors to Worthington's sister city of Crailsheim, Germany, died Tuesday in Arizona after a brief fight with pancreatic cancer. He was 76.

Ed Blair (back) and Gene Janssen are shown boarding a train bound for Omaha, Neb., the first leg of their journey in 1956 as Worthington’s first student ambassadors to sister city Crailsheim, Germany. Daily Globe File photo

PAYSON, Ariz. - Ed Blair, who in 1956 was one of the two first student ambassadors to Worthington’s sister city of Crailsheim, Germany, died Tuesday in Arizona after a brief fight with pancreatic cancer. He was 76.

Blair was a junior at Worthington High School when he and fellow student Gene Janssen were chosen to represent their community as the first student ambassadors who would spend a year living and studying in Crailsheim.
In the wake of World War II, Worthington had reached out to the German community, which was largely destroyed by bombing, sending food, clothing and other basic necessities to help its residents. That outreach became one of the first sister city relationships, and because of it Worthington was selected to receive the first World Brotherhood Award in 1958 “for community-wide service to the cause of international understanding.”
Blair and Janssen were acquainted, but not great friends, when they embarked on their journey to Germany in early July 1956, remembered Janssen in a phone interview Thursday. They had taken either one or two years of German in preparation for the experience.

Blair and Janssen traveled across the ocean by ship, but first boarded a train bound for Omaha, where they would connect with one bound for Quebec, from where the ship would embark.
The two young men became fast friends due to the shared experience and greatly improved their command of the German language.
“The family where he stayed, she was a widow who had two children,” recalled Janssen. “I was always with them, because they had cousins and they were all our age. I stayed with three or four families, but Ed refused to move because he liked where he was. … It was a fun time, and I’m still in touch with some of those people.
“We went to two different schools - the gymnasium (a college preparatory school) for me, and he went to the high school where you’d go on to the community college or trade school. But we were always together.”
Unlike now, when the exchange students are able to connect with home via phone, email and Skype, Blair and Janssen had little contact with family and friends in Worthington.
“The only contact we had was through mail. But back then I could mail a letter, and within four days it would be in Worthington,” Janssen explained. “We were allowed that year to have one phone call at Christmas time.”
Blair and Janssen stayed in touch over the years. Blair attended community college and then Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter, where he met wife-to-be Karyl, followed by seminary in Minneapolis. After seminary,the Blairs moved to Buffalo, where he was the pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Buffalo for 31 years. They had two children, son Nathan and daughter Carmen.
When Blair retired from the ministry, he and Karyl moved to Payson in 2001. He served on the Payson Town Council for a number of years.
The funeral for Ed Blair will be at 2 p.m. Sunday at Zion Lutheran Church in Buffalo. Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 2 p.m. Sunday, all at the church. Peterson Chapel, Buffalo, is in charge of the arrangements.

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