Richard Allen Blomquist, 70, passed away peacefully at his home, Saturday, July 29, 2017, surrounded by his family following a year and half battle against pancreatic cancer.
Those who knew him can attest that Rick was a force of nature. He was relentless, powerful, awe-inspiring, and often left a trail of debris and destruction behind him as he carved out his mark on this world.
He was born July 22, 1947, to Robert “Bobbo” and Marie (Jacobson) Blomquist of New Albin, Iowa. When Rick was five years old, Robert lost his sight due to complications from diabetes. Yet Rick still learned auto repair from his father, from the feel of imperfections in paint to the sound of the maladies of motors. Rick became a sort of car whisperer, an expert mechanic with an almost supernatural ability to fix things, but this was the only whispering he ever did.
The rest of Rick’s life was lived loudly. He played bass guitar and sang in the Exchequers, a rock band formed when its members were in high school. They toured regionally and in 1965, released a record featuring “Is There Some Girl” and a folk-rock rendition of “Greensleeves,” recorded on green transparent vinyl. One collector of rock ephemera called it “the most compelling example of teenage and adolescent frustration.”
But Rick’s frustrations in life weren’t limited to verse. After high school he found himself serving a six-year stint in the Army Reserve, where he was frequently disciplined for insubordination and forced to spit-polish garbage cans and peel potatoes. When not disrespecting officers, he put his mechanic’s skills to use, working in the motor pool and eventually repairing a junked Chevrolet back to working order. He used this Chevy to start a paid shuttle service to the local brothel. Thus an entrepreneur was born.
Soon after being fired or walking off the job at several prominent businesses in the La Crosse area, Rick started Blomquist Auto Repair, which became a fixture of the south side for over 40 years. Later the shop was renamed Blomquist White Glove Auto and employed over a dozen mechanics.
He opened a second White Glove location in Onalaska, along with Second Avenue Sign Company, and Second Avenue Frame Company.
After starting so many businesses in Onalaska and bringing jobs and tax revenue to the area, he became interested in local politics and supported Cosmo Kramer during several mayoral elections. He also participated regularly in city council meetings, usually by being asked to leave.
Through the decades of running repair shops and other businesses, Rick’s love of classic cars, instilled in him by his father, continued to grow. Car shows were an annual ritual, especially the pilgrimage to Auburn, Ind., where he bought and sold cars at auction, traded parts, nearly consumed his body weight in chicken-fried steaks, and continued to bring home automobilia that eventually adorned every wall of his shops and his home, including his highly cherished bathroom.
Late in life, Rick’s hobby became his vocation through the founding of White Glove Collection, his restoration and reproduction parts business. He owned and restored well over 100 cars, many of which went on to win awards at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. His work has become known the world over, and his reputation as an impeccable craftsman is as unimpeachable as his reputation as a relentless loudmouth.
While Rick was proud of the life he lived, the wonderful work he did, the sheer tonnage of prime ribs he ate, and the incredible experiences he got to have, he made it clear during the final year of his life that he was most proud of his family. Though relationships with a man like Rick could be fraught, he made his peace with his family and was grateful to have them in his life. He even made amends with the love of his life, his ex-wife, Kathy, whom he loved dearly.
He is preceded in death by his father, Robert; his mother, Marie (Blomquist) Gullickson; his brother, David Blomquist; and most notably, his sense of shame, which was lost over Bacardi and Coke at a pool party of an unknown date sometime in the mid 1980’s.
He is survived by his collection of cars, and also by his former wife of 40 years, Kathryn Blomquist, and their four children, Jason (Lori Mayo) Blomquist, Brooke (Bradford) Saron, Cord (Elisabeth McCaffrey) Blomquist, and Macy (Daniel) Berg; as well as nine grandchildren, Maxwell, Kazzie, Leo, and August Saron, Haviland, Greeley, Staten, and Lively Berg, and Andrew Blomquist; and his two fur babies, Pitsy and Cootie. He is further survived by his brother, Barry (Eva Dahl) Blomquist; as well as nephews and nieces, David Blomquist Jr., Paula Ebert, Todd Blomquist, Chadburn Blomquist, Darin Blomquist, Erik Blomquist, Bjorn Blomquist, and Christina Blomquist; as well as many other relatives and close friends.
Rick had been looking forward to performing in The Lindy Shannon Silver Anniversary concert at the Moose Lodge in La Crosse Sunday, Aug. 27. In honor of Rick, a celebration of life will be held prior to the concert from 10 a.m. to noon at the Moose Lodge located at 1932 Ward Ave.