Saturday, April 1, 2023

Take a Moment to Get to Know Rob Blizard, Executive Director of the Norfolk SPCA

In the five years since Rob Blizard relocated from Northern Virginia to lead the Norfolk Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), he has quickly become a fixture and leader among Hampton Roads’ non-profit sector.

Get to know Rob better with his InQueeries answers and meet him in person at the upcoming Magic Mutt Calendar & Debut Party on Saturday, October 7 or on October 13 for the Norfolk SPCA Fundraising Cruise hosted by MJ’s Tavern aboard the Carrie B.

Where were you born and raised? 

A true Northern Virginian, I was born at Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church but grew up in Annandale and Springfield.

How long have you lived in Hampton Roads?

Five years

What do you for money/living?

Executive Director, Norfolk SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)

How long have you been out (if applicable), and who was the hardest person to tell?

Came out during high school to some people but right after high school with most people. Can’t think of someone who was hardest to tell.

Who is your LGBTQ hero?

There are so many. I admire any of the people who come out when they face such risk–which, unfortunately, is still true in many countries today. Sometimes that risk means imprisonment, torture and even death. I am not sure I would ever have such courage. I suppose if I had to pick one person, it would be Harvey Milk. But there are so many brave people I admire; many are not public figures or even people whom I know. They live in cultures around the world where being gay can result in serious, life-threatening consequences, but they push ahead anyway. That is extraordinary fortitude!

Is a picture worth a thousand words? Elaborate.

The photo of every adoptable shelter animal says so much. I also love to look at maps as well as black-and-white photos of the stars of yesteryear. I think there’s a book entitled “They Had Faces Then” and that is indeed true.

What was the most memorable LGBTQ moment in your life?

There are so many but what pops into my mind is having my parents ask if they could go to the March on Washington with me back in 1987.

Additionally, working at the Washington Blade for a year in the late 1980s just after I finished at University of Virginia (UVA). I was an editorial assistant and then was a community events reporter. It was the height of the AIDS epidemic and I met so many people who were doing so much to help others. I wrote obituaries (and there were a lot then) and remember being so impressed by the bios of people who had lived a life of helping others, something that helped inspire me to work for animal protection. It was a wonderful small team of people at the newspaper and an experience I look back on with great fondness.

On what do you insist upon daily?

I am news junkie and am constantly checking in with CNN and MSNBC.

What was your last social media post?

I shared the photo of a Norfolk SPCA adoptable animal on my Facebook page.

If you could give yourself at age 16 one piece of advice, what would it be?   

Don’t worry or be afraid so much. Have more courage.

Do you have any suggestions for the local leaders of Hampton Roads’ LGBTQ organizations? 

Adopt a pet from a local shelter!

What is the best part about the Hampton Roads LGBTQ community?

I would like to add the kindness of all the LGBT business people who have been so helpful to the Norfolk SPCA, especially John Childers and Mike Diaz of MJs Tavern. But the list also includes realtor Tony London, New Leaf owners Sarah Munford and Laurel Quarberg, and Decorum owners Claus Ihlemann and Robert Roman.

What LGBTQ stereotype annoys you most?

That we’re somehow immoral or bad people. Didn’t Jerry Falwell accuse gays and other people of being responsible in part for the September 11 terrorist attacks?

What non-LGBTQ issue do you feel most passionate about?

Many – civil liberties, a clean environment, helping the poor, etc., but, of course, animal welfare.

What natural gift would you most like to possess?

To have a greater wit and sense of humor.

What quality do you most admire in a person?

Courage, idealism, willingness to stand up for principles and to help others even at personal risk.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

I love movies. I go to the Naro Cinema all the time and love the artsier films, classic films, documentaries, etc. It is truly an oasis for me. And it sits right next to another oasis: Naro Video. I rent a lot of old films there. I have been interested in films from the golden age of Hollywood since I was a kid. Some movies I return to again and again because I am so fond of them.

What is your favorite curse word?

Um…can’t say….

Why Hampton Roads?

I moved here to accept my position at the Norfolk SPCA in November 2012. I lived most of my life in the Washington, DC area including in the city, Virginia and Maryland. I like that this is a smaller, more manageable, less frenetic area and I really enjoy that Ghent is a lovely, walkable village.

Thanks Rob!

Are you interested in sharing your story or perspectives with the Hampton Roads LGBTQ and allied community?  We would love to hear from you and have you answer the InQueery questions!  To do so, visit our InQueeries page here.

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