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Reporter’s notebook: Flathead, we hardly knew ye

Charlie Martin Contributor

After Mike “Flathead” Blanchard passed away this month, his death notice in The Denver Post quickly became known online as “The Greatest Obituary of All Time.” The Daily Caller couldn’t resist the chance to attend his memorial service Saturday, to meet his friends and find out what made this highly unusual human being tick.

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“What’s in the vial?”

“Nitroglycerin.”

According to lifelong friend Ron Remy, those were the first words he heard from Mike Blanchard when they met during high school.

“I was coming up the walk to his parents’ house when he came out, carrying a small vial, very carefully. He said it was nitroglycerin. He’d just cooked it up in his parents’ kitchen. We put it on a fence post and Mike shot it with a pellet gun, and it blew out a whole section of fence,” Remy said. “We all have these fantasies — but Mike would go out and just do it. I spent a year in Viet Nam, and some of the moments of stark terror I had with Mike eclipsed anything I saw there.”

Mike “Flathead” Blanchard, whose obituary has become an Internet sensation, was remembered at a wake at the Commerce City, Colorado hall of the Fraternal Order of Eagles.

Collecting stories from Flathead’s life, however, initially presented a small problem. “I’m not sure of the statute of limitations,” one of his friends said. After assuring them we’d protect our sources, the stories flowed like whiskey.

“We had friends who joined these ‘outlaw’ motorcycle clubs. We decided we’d have our own. We called it the ‘Dead Cats MC,'” said one of the attendees who had been worried about misdeeds recent enough to prosecute.

“There were three rules. First, you don’t have to own a motorcycle to be a member, but you have to want to own a motorcycle. Second, there are no rules. And third, prospects must bring a petrified dead animal to join.”

“Amazingly,” he told The Daily Caller, “people believed us.”

One of the first dead animals was a petrified cat they named “Oatmeal.” It became the club mascot and traveled with them all over the United States and Mexico. Oatmeal notwithstanding, Blanchard insisted his own cat Chopper be included in his obituary as one of his sons.

Blanchard’s friends called him “Flathead” because of his love for and devotion to Depression-era Fords. Blanchard spent countless hours searching for old Ford dealerships to look for parts.

“One time, in Los Angeles, he went to the library and looked up Ford dealerships that had gone out of business,” Remy said. “He went to the address of one of the dealerships. It was a Chinese laundry. He went in and the owner said ‘Oh, yes, the Parts Department is upstairs. You want that stuff, you can clean it out. We could use the room.'”

Blanchard’s passion for Ford parts became a succession of used-parts businesses, including some the uninitiated might call “junkyards.” He made his living buying and selling parts.

He was once offered $400,000 for his collection of old parts, some of them still new in the box, Remy said, but he turned it down. Blanchard said at the time that he’d rather see them rust away than sell them to some yuppie car club.

The stories Blanchard’s family and friends told certainly didn’t paint him as a boy scout. According to his friends, he was astonishingly intelligent and well read, with encyclopedic knowledge of Fords, guns, and explosives, but equally deep knowledge of European history and of prosaic topics like landscaping.

On the other hand, he had real difficulties with authority, and didn’t give in to social pressures — like hygiene.

“You could have drilled for oil in the leg of his jeans,” remembered one friend who wished to remain anonymous.

Another recalled a time when Blanchard came to dinner. “He rolled up his sleeves to here,” he said, indicating a spot on his upper arm. “Mike scrubbed and scrubbed to get his hands clean, right up to his rolled up sleeves. Above that, nothing.”

As his obituary noted, Blanchard was a life-long Republican and an NRA member. And according to another friend, he had what we might now charitably call “old-fashioned” attitudes about race.

Nonetheless, Blanchard was a prime mover in the successful effort to preserve the home of Dr Justina Ford, the first African-American female doctor in Colorado.

His son, Mike Jr., said, “He told me ‘you remember this. This is important.'”

The stories continued throughout the afternoon, but eventually strayed into territory where having a reporter in the room might change the nature of the reminiscences. As we excused ourselves, Mike Jr, walked us out.

“The funny thing was,” he said of his father, “for his rough exterior, he was really a sentimental guy.”

Mike was showing us a green Ford pickup — one that had a hole in the roof from a friend’s accidental gunshot.

“When I was seven or eight, he was working on the truck and swearing he was going to sell it, and I started tearing up. ‘You can’t sell the green truck.'”

“He didn’t.”

It’s clear that anyone who met Blanchard while he was alive might not have seen through his rough exterior at first. But the people at Saturday’s wake, equally clearly, saw a lot more in him.

There were laughs, and some tears, and the realization that a large slice of this Denver suburb misses “Flathead” a great deal.

After the stories, we do too.

On April 12 The Denver Post published the following obituary for Mike Blanchard. His online guest book has nearly 200 entries as of this writing, including some from as far away as Honolulu, Toronto and Glen Burnie, Md.

Blanchard, Michael “Flathead”

1944 – 2012

A Celebration of the life of Michael “Flathead” Blanchard will be held on April 14th, 3 pm 8160 Rosemary St, Commerce City. Weary of reading obituaries noting someone’s courageous battle with death, Mike wanted it known that he died as a result of being stubborn, refusing to follow doctors’ orders and raising hell for more than six decades. He enjoyed booze, guns, cars and younger women until the day he died.

Mike was born July 1944 in Colorado to Clyde and Ethel Blanchard. A community activist, he is noted for saving the Dr. Justina Ford house from demolition and defending those who could not defend themselves. He was a Republican delegate, life member of the NRA, founder and President of the Dead Cats MC. He loved music.

Mike was preceded in death by Clyde and Ethel Blanchard, survived by his beloved sons Mike and Chopper, former wife Jane Transue, brother Stephen Blanchard (Susan), Uncle Don and Aunt Cynthia Blanchard(his favorite); Uncle Dill and Aunt Dot, cousins and nephews, Baba Yaga can kiss his butt. So many of his childhood friends that weren’t killed in Vietnam went on to become criminals, prostitutes and/or Democrats. He asks that you stop by and re-tell the stories he can no longer tell. As the Celebration will contain Adult material we respectfully ask that no children under 18 attend.