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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — A high-ranking member of the Commander, U.S. Forces Japan Fire Department died suddenly of a stroke last week.

Fire Chief Norman Blankenship was the acting fire chief of the Yokosuka area and assistant fire chief for the entire Kanto Plain. The 50-year-old suffered a fatal stroke Wednesday.

Born May 11, 1956, in Virginia, Blankenship first came to Yokosuka to serve aboard the aircraft carrier USS Midway as a 17-year-old.

He returned to Yokosuka as a civilian in November 2005 as the acting fire chief. He was a chief fire officer designee — an honor conferred by the International Association of Fire Chiefs that is held by about 300 people worldwide.

He is survived by his wife, Charlene, and their two children, Alisha and Zachariah.

A memorial service was held Monday at Yokosuka Naval Base’s Chapel of Hope.

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