John D. Blaisse, 94, a retired office manager, singer, and actor

John D. Blaisse
John D. Blaisse
Posted: October 08, 2010

John D. Blaisse, 94, formerly of Drexel Hill, a retired insurance firm office manager, a singer, and an actor, died Monday, Oct. 4, at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Lebanon, Pa.

Mr. Blaisse, who took vocal lessons in his youth, sang at social events. He was a cantor at St. Andrew's Church in Drexel Hill and performed in its theater company.

After retiring from Reliance Insurance Co. in 1981, he led the Guys and Gals singing group, sponsored by the Retired Senior Volunteer Program of Delaware County. The group entertained in nursing homes, where he went out of his way to please his audience. He had a vast knowledge of pop music, son Robert said, but when he couldn't recall a song, he would research it at the library. Mr. Blaisse was named RSVP, Delaware County, Humanitarian of the Year in 1994.

When an RSVP member and part-time actor told Mr. Blaisse that he "had a face for commercials," he signed with an agent and joined the Screen Actors Guild. For 14 years, until the mid-1990s, he appeared in TV commercials promoting pharmaceuticals, the Pennsylvania Lottery, and Pennsylvania tourism. He also appeared in several movies shot in Philadelphia.

His speaking part in Philadelphia was cut, but his one line in Twelve Monkeys, "500 dollars, I've got 500 dollars, I'm insured," made the final edit and became a family joke. While on the set, Mr. Blaisse taught Brad Pitt how to play two-handed pinochle.

When Twelve Monkeys premiered at the Ritz Theater in 1996, Mr. Blaisse was treated like a celebrity and his late-in-life career was the subject of a Don Pollock segment on 6ABC.

Mr. Blaisse grew up in Melrose Park and graduated from Cheltenham High School. In 1940, he enlisted in the Army and was assigned to a cavalry unit, training on horseback. When war broke out, the Army disbanded the cavalry and it became an artillery division.

Mr. Blaisse served stateside. After his discharge, he earned a bachelor's degree from Temple University.

He and his wife, Elizabeth Merrick Blaisse, met at a church social and married in 1947. He took care of her during her eight-year illness before her death in 2000, their son said.

In addition to his son, Mr. Blaisse is survived by daughters Biz Burnett and Catherine Votral; another son, Thomas; 12 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Friends may call from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 8, and 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 9, at D'Anjollel Funeral Home, 2811 West Chester Pike, Broomall. A Funeral Mass will be said Saturday at St. Anastasia Church, 3301 West Chester Pike, Newtown Square. Burial will be in SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery, Marple Township.

Donations may be made to Laymen's Retreat League, Malvern Retreat House, 315 Warrant Ave., Malvern, Pa. 19355, where Mr. Blaisse attended retreats for 75 years.


Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.

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