Farewell First Lady
On Sunday morning July 6, a magnificent lady concluded her journey on earth. It was not however simply the passing of a remarkable woman, but in many ways was also emblematic of the fading vestiges of a distinctly different era.
By any and all measures, Jenneane Randle Blair was many things. The family she was born into, as the first child of Gene and Rachel Randle in September, 1934, in Clay Center, Kansas, were pioneers in the fledgling greyhound racing industry. Her father would go on to become a legendary owner and kennel operator at tracks from coast to coast. He also became one of the industry’s all time most successful and colorful personalities. His business savvy and fearlessness paid great dividends. He was greyhound racing’s version of golf’s Walter Hagen in that time.
The family was at times a traveling road show. New England and South Florida emerged as the sport’s Meccas and eventually for Jeannene end her siblings, Ned, Chad and Sharie, Miami became home base.
She grew into a lovely, intelligent, extraordinarily capable young woman and had started college at
The University of Miami but her ambitions were focused on pursuit of a traditional path and a burning desire, building the structure and providing the solid foundation for an ultimate American family. When dashing, young Carroll Blair turned his focus her way, the die was cast. He was the son of Merrill and Thelma Blair. The Blairs,
like her parents, had forged a tremendously successful path in the racing business through hard work, overcoming hardship and unyielding determination. Both of these first borns to classic American storied families, had the vision to foresee what their union would yield. It was what they both wanted to create, a continuation and further progression of the legacy their family’s had put in motion.
And what a legacy it was. Amazingly, two of the first three greyhounds inducted into the Hall of Fame were Randle’s Real Huntsman and Blair’s Flashy Sir. The Blair-Randle marriage was in fact a Greyhound Industry Royal Wedding. The young Prince and Princess of the sport’s first families, united.
While Carroll built a business, Jeannene constructed a family.
The dynamics of success were equally reliant on both critical aspects. The Blair family population quickly increased. Six new Blairs, all distinct and individual and accomplished.
Terie, smart, strong, fearless and resolute like her mother and understanding and accepting of her role as carrier of the torch as first born.
Randy, gifted with the best qualities of his descendants. Wisdom, humor, work ethic and a tremendous generosity of spirit.
Cathie, dutiful and determined. An achiever of all of her goals through unyielding effort fueled by her admiration for her parents and fear of her mother’s lofty expectations of her being unfulfilled.,
Rusty- Brilliant, effusive and talented. Athletically strong and gifted. Capable of anything he set his mind to.
Shauna- Beautiful, impetuous, at times even rebellious to maternal authority. But ingrained with the same core values and beliefs.
And Then… Holly. Every addition to the family made them stronger. Holly made therm all great and the tale of this family was transformed to Epic.
Holly was born with Down Syndrome and conventional wisdom was that she would be severely limited. Jenneane decided that conventional wisdom was wrong. She decided that Holly’s life would be everything it could possibly be and more. Her strength, resolve and wisdom rose to its loftiest heights. Enlisting her remarkable children to contribute their considerable collective talents and motivating array of achievements. The family turned adversity into soaring triumph. Holly was a superstar in the tradition of her Blair-Randle roots. A gold medal athlete in two different Olympics in two different sports. Holly, incredibly also became a High School graduate. She grew into a beloved symbol of what was possible. She became a celebrity inspiration to countless people. Jenneane set the bar high for all of them and they all excelled.
Great stories of triumph can plunge to tragedy and despair in the blink of an eye. And stunningly, so it was to be in this wondrous saga. Holly’s unexpected death at age 20, rocked the remarkable family’s world. The glue that held it all together was the family’s incredible Matriarch. The personal devastation of the loss of a child that had been her passionate driving force, had to be personally, absolutely devastating. In the face of horrific loss and grief, Jenneane, in a lifetime of incredible hours, may have authored her finest one. She had to rise up and call on her remarkable core core strength and resolve, she soldiered in. There was work to be done, tasks to be completed, priorities to emphasize. The backbone cannot waver or buckle. Now, great expansion was taking place. Grandchildren arrived with regularity. There were new generations to cultivate. Seventeen more to carry forth the
Tradition and legacy she had been so instrumental in building. She lived to see Grand children marry and the arrival of great grandchildren as the legacy she put in place rolls on.
A person of remarkable quality. Capable of doing anything she set her mind to, ultimately accomplished exactly what she wanted to achieve. The modern world in many ways has advanced but it has also taken steps back. Some might say looking back on Jenneane Randle Blair’s life that she was “Just” a wife and mother. What a gross understatement and minimizing assessment that would be. In fact, she was an architect, builder, CEO and Operations Director of the most majestic of structures, a great American family.
In a life where she was surrounded by Hall of Fame inductees, she was every bit as deserving for acknowledgement and enshrinement in her own special place of honor. Yes, we lost an someone extraordinary on that July morning. It was truly the passing of not just a wonderful woman, we all lost a “First Lady” of an Industry, a Family, a Tradition and an Era. Rest in peace Jenneane with the knowledge that your life’s work and mission was exemplary and a resounding success. She was truly in life, A first ballot, Hall of Famer.