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Boots Blatt, ’48 Olympian, dead at 79

Passing Date: 
Monday, August 5, 2002

Boots Blatt, 79, dies of cancer

WWII fighter pilot was member of '48 Olympic ski team

John M. "Boots" Blatt, age 79, died at his home in Indio, CA on July 10th 2002, after a brave battle with cancer.

Boots was born on May 14, 1923 in Hamburg, Germany, of naturalized American citizens, Robert Blatt, Sr. and Anita Rohde Blatt. He was brought to the U.S. at age 6 months and lived in Pennsylvania for 10 years, then Seattle, WA, for 3 years, and the rest of his life in California. He joined the Army Air Corps after graduation from high school in Palo Alto, CA in 1942 and became a P-38 fighter pilot, winning the national air gunnery championship at Matagorda Island, TX in 1944. He went on to fly 44 combat missions in the South Pacific Theater of Operations, and left the Air Corps with an honorable discharge after the war. Following World War II, he spent 2 years at Stanford University majoring in Industrial Engineering, and racing for the Stanford Ski Club.

In 1934, while living in Seattle, the Blatt family had started skiing at nearby Snowqualmie Pass. As the years went on both Boots and his older brother Bob became ski racers competing throughout the West, gaining success both before and after the war. Their racing careers culminated with both brothers being named to the 1948 U.S. Olympic Ski Team which competed in St. Moritz, Switzerland. This was the team that did most of its training in Sun Valley, Idaho.

In the 50's, 60's, and 70's Boots continued his involvement in skiing by coaching junior racers in Southern California. He was also a Far West Ski Instructors Association (FWSIA) instructor, and served on its board of directors for several years. He continued skiing and influencing young skiers for the remainder of his life.

After the Olympics he worked in agriculture, managing the Janss Corporation properties in California's Coachella Valley. He later farmed his own properties there. Boots was a co-founder of Palco Linings and Pacific Lining Company, lining agricultural reservoirs, golf course and recreational lakes, and designing and building water features for commercial and residential developments. He also served for 31 ½ years as a member of the Mt. San Jacinto Winter Park Authority (Palm Springs Arial Tramway), 6 years as its chairman.

Boots has been a part-time resident of the Wood River Valley for a number of years. He was a member of the Sun Valley Ski Club, the International Ski History Association and The Ancient Skiers (of the Pacific Northwest). He has been an active member of the Ketchum Sun Valley Historical Society, serving on its board of directors for several years and volunteering at the Heritage and Ski Museum in Ketchum.

Boots is survived by his wife Marcia (Marci) Newcomb Blatt; three children, Michael Blatt of Fillmore, CA, Julianne (Dee Dee) Connell of Sheridan, WY, and Kelly Blatt of Huntington Beach, CA; four grandchildren, Katie and Allison Connell of Sheridan, and Megan and Jonathan Blatt of Huntington Beach; and brother Herb Blatt of Bermuda Dunes, CA.