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Billy Summers/The Putnam Herald Walter Blenko greeting collectors on Saturday morning, June 17th during the WV Birthday Piece sale.

By LEE ANN WELCH

The Herald-Dispatch

Officials with Blenko Glass Company in Milton this week are mourning the loss of Walter J. Blenko Jr., the man they credit for rescuing the company from bankruptcy earlier this decade.

Blenko, 93, the company's president, died Sunday, Aug. 11, at his home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

"Had it not been for him stepping in, there would not be a Blenko Glass," said Vice President Dean Six.

Walter J. Blenko Jr., became president in 2008, and was instrumental in bringing the company out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2011.

The Blenko family and company have been a mainstay of Milton since 1921. The company's glass products have been admired, collected and displayed around the world. It is seen in homes and museums, and West Virginia collectors are especially passionate about the pieces created for the state's birthday each June.

Walter J. Blenko Jr. was a grandson of the company's founder.

"He will be remembered for his dedication to the company and town of Milton," Six said. The well-being of the town and its residents was always a great concern to the Blenkos, considered a sacred trust to the family, Six said.

Blenko will continue to be a family-owned and operated company, Six said. The board of directors will have to meet and select a successor, but that timetable has not been set. Until then, operations will continue as normal.

After leaving the U.S. Army as a combat infantryman in Europe, Walter Blenko went to Carnegie Institute of Technology, now Carnegie Mellon University, and graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1950. He then went to the University of Pittsburgh, receiving a law degree in 1953.

Before becoming president of the glassmaker, Walter J. Blenko Jr. was a lawyer, specializing in intellectual property law.

Ron Hinkle, a glass artist in Buckhannon, West Virginia, expressed his sympathies via Facebook, saying "His enthusiastic personality and the signature bow ties and true gentlemanly ways that permeated from him will be greatly missed. The short time that I worked for Mr. Blenko, he became a true friend and I thought of him as a father figure."

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