Morning Zen

Systems of Care Loses One of Its Biggest Fans – Burt Blau

February 04, 2021

If you attended the Tampa Conference during the years that Gary Blau was Branch Chief at SAMHSA who had responsibility for the Child Mental Health Initiative grants, you likely encountered Burt Blau and his wife, Louise. Burt and Louise were Gary’s parents. Louise left us seven years ago, and Burt passed on last week. Burt was so very proud of his son, Gary.

Back in the day, I prepared speeches and presentations for Gary. I always looked for a way to get a laugh from the crowd at Gary’s expense. The fun part was that Gary was always in on  the joke, whether his face being photoshopped over a picture of superman or him as a caveman (So simple, even a caveman could do it), you get the idea. Gary was so supportive of bringing levity into serious topics and incredibly willing to be “the Fed” at the brunt of the joke.

Burt made it a point to be at just about every Tampa research conference where Gary presented. And at these conferences, Burt and I had a ritual – we would always meet for a few moments before one of Gary’s presentations so both he and Louise (and then just he after she passed) could be in on the joke as well. The Blau parents would brim with pride as we would laugh our way through the slide deck, and then they would hurry to their seats to listen to their son present; to laugh at the jokes they knew were coming, to honor him, as he honored them, and to bask in the affection that others had for their son. After every presentation, Burt would find me, grab my hand, hold on to it, look me in the eye, and say, “My son did good, didn’t he?” “He did, he really did. My son did good.”

I gotta tell you, folks; I am crying as I write this. There is something so powerful about a parent’s love for their child. And I got to see this with Burt and Louise, and then with Burt, for many years. Always the secret delight of a school kid who gets let in on the joke that’s about to be played in class. Always the abundance of pride after the joke was revealed; joy, after the speech was over; and drinking in the applause of the crowd, reveling in the delight and excitement that filled the ballroom, as people made their way to the next session.

Burt touched me deeply. His love for his son was something to be cherished, and I will always cherish the opportunities I had to be a part of that. And Burt, I won’t forget. Your son done good, and he continues to do good.


Obituary for Burton Ira Blau
Burton Ira Blau, 82, of Altamonte Springs, passed away Saturday, January 30, 2021 after a short battle with cancer. He is predeceased by his wife of over 50 years, Louise Wagman Blau, and is survived by his sister, Maxine Blau Derington, two children, four grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Burt was born on March 6, 1938 in New Jersey to Aaron and Belle Blau. He went to Rutgers University to study psychology where he met and then married Louise Wagman Blau. A little known fact was that he enjoyed playing the saxophone and was a drum major for the Rutgers marching band. It was around this time that he began his love of jazz which carried on through the remainder of his life – if you ever wanted to find him you could look for him at any of the local jazz concerts or follow the jazz music coming from his Alexa. After Rutgers, he completed his PhD in Clinical Psychology at Southern Illinois University and had his son, Gary, while living in Carbondale, Illinois. He began his career at University of Tennessee in Knoxville when their daughter, Traci, arrived. He then spent over 30 years at University of Central Florida as a Professor in the psychology department. He also practiced psychology in the Greater Orlando area and was well respected in the community. He will be remembered as a mentor to his students, a “top notch” educator to his colleagues, and a dedicated friend.

Burt and Louise loved to travel. Their adventurous spirits led them to seven continents and 150 countries. They enjoyed bringing their children on many of their trips, passing their passion on to the future generations. Burt and Louise were very involved in the Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando and could often be found working out at the gym. Even in their retirement, Burt and Louise made sure to stay busy. They continued their presence on the UCF campus and took classes through the Life Program.

Burt also volunteered for the Altamonte Springs Police Department and became an avid bridge player. He played bridge several times a week and in multiple tournaments and was considered a dedicated partner and good friend. He also became quite an expert at jewelry making, and attended “jewelry camp” for many years trying to perfect his skills. Many women can be seen around Orlando wearing his pieces. For the past few years, Burt enjoyed spending time with his companion, Susan, playing bridge, watching jeopardy, and traveling the world.

Although Burt had a very busy life, his favorite role was being “Poppy.” He had four grandchildren – Jennifer, Andrew, Felix (Lauren), and Mitchell and five great-grandchildren – Logan, Evan, Ophelia, Elliot, and Monty. He was known as “Poppy” to his family and also to all of their friends.

Burt lived an amazing and full life and will be remembered and missed by his friends (many of which he has known for over 50 years) and by his family. In lieu of flowers please donate to the Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando.

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About the Author

Scott Bryant-Comstock

Hello, I’m Scott Bryant-Comstock, CEO and founder of the Children’s Mental Health Network. For the past 40 years, my journey as a mental health advocate has traveled from volunteering at a suicide and crisis center, professional roles as a therapist in an outpatient clinic, in-home family therapist, state mental health official, Board Chair for a county mental health program, and national reviewer of children’s mental health systems reform efforts. As the founder of the Children’s Mental Health Network (2009), I lead the Network’s efforts to grow a national online forum to exchange ideas on how to improve children’s mental health research, policy, and practice.

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