Elmer Ralph Blanchard, 92: Built homes for IBM transplants

Elmer Blanchard used to joke that IBM stood for "I've been moved."

He built numerous houses for Big Blue executives and employees who transferred to metro Atlanta in the 1970s and early 1980s.  He left his imprint, primarily, in the subdivisions of Sandy Springs.

"He started building in Sandy Springs when it was just a day trip from Decatur, when it was the boonies," said a daughter, Elizabeth Orth of Decatur. "There was a Chart House restaurant on the corner, and that was about it."

In 1980, Mr. Blanchard of Decatur retired but didn't shelf his paintbrushes and tools. He was always fixing something and this summer painted his daughter's condo in Highland Beach, Fla.

"Linen -- that was his signature color, and he did a beautiful job," said Charlotte Kelley, his daughter. "We are totally amazed that he did that, being as sick as he was."

Elmer Ralph Blanchard had never been hospitalized till this summer after a diagnosis of colon cancer. He died from complications of the disease on Nov. 24 at Decatur's Odyssey Hospice. He was 92. A memorial service will be held at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Decatur Presbyterian Church. A.S. Turner & Sons is in charge of arrangements.

In 1937, Mr. Blanchard graduated from Decatur High. He was the captain of the 1936 Decatur High football team that won the interscholastic football championship. He attended North Georgia College but married his first wife before he earned a degree.

His father, the late Cecil Blanchard, owned a painting business and a hardware store, Blanchard and Sons, in Decatur. Blanchard the son helped his father paint and renovate some of the finer homes in Buckhead. Building houses proved to be an easy fit for this Marine, who served in the Pacific during World War II.

"He learned about it and fell in love with it," Mrs. Orth said. "He studied the Williamsburg, Va., design, which was new back then, and focused on building traditional, colonial homes."

In the early 1960s, Mr. Blanchard started his own business and eventually found a niche market in IBM personnel. For them, he built houses in the Sandy Springs subdivisions of Riverside, Riverchase, Glen Errol and Winterthur. In 1981, he was featured in a monthly magazine, Accent on Living, as a "premier home builder in Atlanta."

For several years, Mr. Blanchard lived in Augusta after he married a second time. He returned to Decatur 12 years ago to live with his daughter, Mrs. Orth. He didn't have any hobbies, but was project-oriented.

"He was the Mr. Fix-it, the go-to guy for all of our children," Mrs. Orth said. "He was always painting, fixing a doorknob, that kind of thing. He was not a sit-around type of guy, and he was good at teaching us."

Additional survivors include daughters, Margaret Narrison of Flowery Branch and Jennifer McCoy of Charleston, S.C.; 13 grandchildren; 24 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.