Portraits in Time

Blickensderfer selected Conneaut’s top citizen

  • By MARK TODD – Staff Writer – mtodd@starbeacon.com
  • Jan 30, 2008

CONNEAUT — Robert Blickensderfer — World War II pilot, local historian and award-winning photographer — has been selected Conneaut’s 2007 Citizen of the Year.

The award, sponsored by the Conneaut Area Chamber of Commerce, will be bestowed at the chamber’s annual meeting and dinner Feb. 12 at the Conneaut Moose Lodge, 280 Park Ave.

Several Chamber Champions also will be saluted at the event, including Conneaut High School, UH-Conneaut Medical Center and local attorney Nicholas Iarocci.

Blickensderfer, “Blick” to his many friends, was one of five nominees for the annual award, said Julie Germovsek, the chamber’s executive director. Nominees submitted by residents are voted upon by past award recipients and former chamber presidents.

Blickensderfer, a resident at the Villa at the Lake in Conneaut, has accumulated decades of public service, according to his nomination. A member of the Conneaut High School Class of 1939, he served with the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, piloting troop transport planes that participated in the Normandy invasion. He also flew planes during assaults of Sicily, Italy, Holland and the final paratrooper drop across the Rhine River.

He continued to serve as a U.S. Air Force reservist and, in 1967, was appointed liaison officer for the Air Force Academy, helping local students apply to the prestigious military academy.

Blickensderfer studied at the Ray School of Photography in Chicago and spent two years in photo work in Erie. In 1949, Blickensderfer took over the Howard Webb photo/ camera shop on downtown Main Street, a business he would operate for 30 years.

He was active with the First United Methodist Church for nearly 50 years, and also helped create the Conneaut Area Historical Society in 1996.

Blickensderfer’s extensive background in Conneaut history was invaluable, Edwin Wharton, society president, said Wednesday.

“He was very helpful with his knowledge of the area,” Wharton said. “He was our treasurer for many years. He was very well-known and an asset to the organization.”

Blickensderfer specialized in Native American artifacts and participated in local archaeological digs, Wharton said.

A Portrait in Time

A Memoir of Blick’s Studio

By Claire Anderson

I don’t remember the first time I walked into Blick’s Studio. Well, I didn’t walk in- I was carried in as a bouncing three-month-old. But there is plenty of evidence that I visited often. I had my birthday portrait taken there every year. I was born in Conneaut and this favored area establishment kept good track of my growth.

The ritual continued until I entered my school years in Springfield, when a school building took over the job of recording my pictorial passage through the years. Not so personal and not nearly as much fun. But my connection to the Main Street studio continued when in November of every year Mr. Blick brought the studio to us. Never shrinking from the challenge, he managed to get my squirming and often mutinous brothers and sisters, along with our harried parents, neatly arranged and calmed enough to snap our annual Christmas card portrait.

As budding teenagers, we each acquired cameras of our own and the visit to Blick’s became a greatly anticipated event. With one quick rush into the store, we could bring home packets of pictures, dump them onto the table, and reminisce over the long-ago events of the previous week.

When my late teens brought the need for prom pictures, a senior portrait, and eventually an engagement picture, it was like stepping onto a wonderful time machine.  I hadn’t been in the back studio since I was five years old, but everything was still there. The familiar smell and the dark curtains all around, a camera on a tripod and those funny looking umbrella things. Back in time I went with the memorable poof pop around the lights and the shutter going off at once. There were the proverbial blind spots that faded almost too slowly. Then more positioning, more shutters flying. I was five again and very content.

When I finally married at age 20, there was no debate on who would take the wedding pictures. Mr. Blick was there with all his calm and expertise, arranging and snapping and getting us through it all. But it was my brother who had the good sense to snap the best and most telling picture of them all.  It’s the only picture I have of the man behind the camera, and it is lovingly entitled “Blickie doing his thing.”
Blick’s Studio isn’t there anymore, but it will always be there in our minds. Its importance will continue to live on in the 100’s of 1000’s of pictures that have passed through its doors and the myriad of portraits that grace the walls and albums of former happy customers everywhere.

From Remembering 2001