Family: Woman remembered as helpful, ‘good-hearted’
By MADELYN BANKHEAD-VIETH
• Amarillo Globe
AMARILLO, Texas — Friends, family and the small community of Felt, Okla., on Wednesday mourned the loss of a grandmother who shielded her granddaughter from a gun-wielding attacker.
Those closest to Sharrel Blankenbaker, 63, agreed she was completely selfless when it came to serving others.
Facing death to protect her three grandchildren from the gunman Tuesday night at a Love’s Country Store on the western outskirts of Amarillo was no different.
Authorities said about 9:05 p.m., Gary Don Carner, 58, of Amarillo, followed Blankenbaker and her three grandchildren – ages 5, 12 and 16 – into the Love’s.
When Blankenbaker emerged, Carner tried to grab the 12-year-old. Blankenbaker stepped in front of her three grandchildren and struggled with Carner, authorities said.
Thomas said Carner pulled a small handgun. Witnesses said he shot her in the back in front of the children.
A Potter County deputy later shot and killed Carner after he abducted an 11-year-old on a rural Potter County road.
Law enforcement praised Blankenbaker as a hero during a news conference Wednesday.
“The word hero has come up several times,” her brother, Whit Warner, said. “That would’ve been the last thing she would’ve ever thought about. It’s just ... that’s what you do.”
Blankenbaker and one of her grandsons had traveled to Amarillo to pick up two other grandchildren at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport, longtime neighbor Pat Myers said.
Felt is located about 20 miles southwest of Boise City, Okla., on Highways 56 and 64. Residents of Felt, where Blankenbaker and her husband, Dale, moved about 1980, can hardly believe she is dead.
“It’s just blown us all away, absolutely shocked our community,” said Myers, Blankenbaker’s neighbor of about 25 years. “I can’t believe it happened.”
Myers said Blankenbaker, an avid gardener, recently brought vegetables from her garden to the post office in a box for anyone to take.
“She was the kind of person that would just help you do anything,” Myers, a retired Felt High School teacher, said. “She was just a good-hearted person.”
Mary Ann Foreman of Phoenix, a friend of Blankenbaker’s for more than 50 years, said she would tackle anything, no matter the size, if it would lend a helping hand.
“She was instrumental when my kids got married ... the showers and all that,” said Foreman, who lived up the road from Blankenbaker as a child.
“My dad passed away last October. She was right there getting the dinners together and fed my whole family breakfast the morning we were leaving to come back to Arizona.
“She’s just one of a kind.”
Blankenbaker grew up the oldest of five children and the only girl, Warner said.
She helped raise her younger siblings, he said.
Her roots growing up on a farm in rural Oklahoma contributed to her tough but gentle spirit, Foreman said.
Her reaction to the situation outside the Love’s was no surprise to those who knew her.
“It doesn’t surprise me a bit that she would react like that. She’s a tough farm-ranch girl, has been her whole life,” Foreman said. “She would’ve done it for anybody. It wouldn’t have to be her grandkids. She would’ve done it for anyone.”
Despite their loss, Warner said the family knows Blankenbaker is with the Lord.
“We don’t know what God will do with this, but all things work to the good, we may not ever know, but I know that her life was not in vain,” he said. “There’s a time to mourn, there’s a time to weep, there’s a time for all these things, and we will get through this time. We’ll just continue to give God the glory for the life of Sharrel Blankenbaker and how she impacted this family.”