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Carl Jeffrey Bloomquist, who has had cancer six times, said, “My life has always been really good … and I wouldn’t change anything.” Wherever this life-long Jamestown resident goes, a trail of positivity follows his footsteps. Bloomquist, who prefers to be known by his middle name, dedicated his life to helping build up the community that supported him. He carries out this goal in a variety of ways.
Bloomquist’s sense of community comes from his roots in Jamestown. He was raised by foster parents in a home on Blanchard Street. His family passed the house on to him, and he still lives there today.
Jamestown is lucky to have a citizen so devoted to serving others. Just one of the many examples of his giving nature occurred in 2012, when he personally donated more than 50 pairs of mittens and 50 pairs of children’s socks to the Salvation Army to help with their winter jacket drive.
Bloomquist attended Jamestown High School, where he is part of the Class of 1968. He vividly remembers that it rained all day on the day of his graduation. During high school he managed the varsity football and baseball teams. “I played a little of both,” Bloomquist especially enjoys baseball, and can both pitch and catch with his left hand, an unusual skill.
Bearded and intellectual, he strongly resembles President Abraham Lincoln and acts as a professional impersonator; he is a member of the Association of Lincoln Presenters. “He’s my favorite [president]. He had a hard life, started in a single-room log cabin,” Bloomquist said of the self-educated man who became president, practiced law and led the U.S. through the Civil War.
More than 300 parades and events have been graced by this Mr. Lincoln. For the past 16 years he has participated in the Downtown Jamestown Christmas Parade. Though his skills are, understandably, most in demand around Presidents Day, Bloomquist remains committed to the role all year round. “I haven’t shaved the beard in 10 to 12 years,” he said, “just because you never know when someone needs Lincoln.”
Always an optimist, Bloomquist wants to see everyone advance their education and have opportunities for success, which is why in 2007 he started the C. Jeffrey Bloomquist History Scholarship fund at the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation. Though the fund began with just Bloomquist’s savings, donors from all over the country now pitch in to help local high schoolers — who must be enrolled in a history class — go to college.
His passion for U.S. history began at a young age. “I had rheumatic fever as a kid. For three years I was laid up, but I did a lot of reading. A lot of history books, regular books, and of course all the books [my teachers] sent me.”
Still a voracious reader, Bloomquist turned to writing as a way of sharing his story. His current project, My Journey Back from Vietnam, describes experiences faced by members of his unit during the Vietnam War.
Though he wears an Army cap decorated with pins, Bloomquist glossed over the eight awards and medals he received while serving in the Army during the Vietnam War. He served from 1969 to 1971 as a cook and a medic.
His one regret is that he was not allowed to bring his helmet home. “It had more than 35 abrasions on it where it saved my life,” he said. Days in Vietnam involved hanging out of moving helicopters while dodging the remnants of explosions, flying shrapnel. He had to comb the shards of shrapnel out of his hair, and occasionally scalp, on many nights.
While overseas he was confronted with a Vietnamese woman who had been struggling for 12 hours to give birth to a breeched baby. A nervous Bloomquist stepped in to perform his first and only delivery. “When I was leaving Vietnam, I went back through the village, and they were doing good,” he said.
Rocky Bleier, former Pittsburg Steelers halfback, received a serious leg wound while in Vietnam, and luckily Bloomquist was nearby. Bloomquist did not hesitate to literally give the shirt off his back to a fellow citizen. “I wrapped his leg with my shirt and tied it up with the sleeves,” he said.
On a less dramatic note, Bloomquist still loves to cook, and offered to bring homemade pizza to the Gazette office to prove his skills.
In 1977 he ran for mayor against Steven Carlson, who went on to become one of Jamestown’s longest-serving mayors. Though Bloomquist never ran for public office again, his community values have stayed consistent since his campaign.
“My theory is you keep the hospital, you keep the police force, you keep the fire department and education. Those are the most important things in a community. You don’t cut [funding for] them.”
The Ironman World Championship, an annual triathlon held in Hawaii, involves the traditional events: swimming, running and biking. Bloomquist, an avid marathon runner and overall athlete, participated twice. After returning home in 1983 he began to experience strange symptoms: dizziness, a cough, weight loss, and pain in his left leg.
He had bone cancer. After months of excruciating joint and bone pain, Bloomquist had to consider the possibility of amputation. Instead he decided on a nine-hour surgery that saved his leg.
Only two months later he began training for the Cleveland Revco Marathon, where he completed 21 of 26.2 miles. Shortly afterward he placed 15th in a half marathon, and he has continued to run ever since. Unfortunately, his fight was not over. Bloomquist battled five types of cancer, but persisted in his running career.
He has participated in local Relay For Life events for 22 years. Each year he enters himself as a one-man team, and raises money by sending letters to local businesses, neighbors and contacts in many states. His personal Relay record is 87 miles in one day.
Bloomquist has raised more than $100,000 for cancer research. This year alone he raised $3,638, and hopes to raise a grand total of $150,000 by 2019. And the money raised helps real people and their families. “All the money stays here to work with patients here,” he said.
In addition to fundraising, Bloomquist takes classes and workshops at Roswell Park to better understand cancer. He communicates with the chemists at Roswell, lets them know how crucial they are to the medical industry, and encourages them to persevere in finding a cure. Injection treatments, a less-invasive alternative to radiation and chemotherapy, seem to be a step toward this goal.
Bloomquist’s main concern is that people keep supporting the campaign for the continuation of cancer research funding. “You never know when it’s going to hit your family,” he said. “You can’t take things with you and you can’t take anything for granted.”
The Chautauqua Region Community Foundation is located at 418 Spring Street. Stop by or contact them at 716-488-0387 to donate to the Bloomquist History Scholarship or any number of other funds dedicated to helping the Jamestown-area community.