In remembrance of Leigh (Lee) Blake, age 80, born Aug. 24, 1935, in Binghamton, New York, the third of three sons born to Marion Elliott Blake and Roy Blake, passed on May 16, 2016, in Prescott, Arizona.
Lee grew up and lived in Brewster, New York until he enlisted in the Coast Guard after high school. He served four years in the Coast Guard working as an electronics technician on the Balsam and the CGC Ewing, as well as at Loran Station on Anguar Island (Palau Group). Subsequently, he enrolled at San Francisco State College, earning a Bachelor of Arts in 1962. After graduation he worked for Geigy Pharmaceuticals, where he published a paper on testing methods for determining the efficacy of analgesics.
For the next 27 years, (1963-1990), Lee worked for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, primarily as a fisheries manager. The last five years of his career were spent as Regional Supervisor of Natural Resources, where he had overall responsibility for Fish & Wildlife, Lands & Forests, Land Acquisition, Forest Rangers, Pesticide Management, Mining Regulations, Fish & Wildlife and Environmental Analysis. He was proud that he had a hand in establishing the “Wild, Scenic and Recreation” designation for a number of pristine rivers in his region, and he often commented that he “had the best job in the world.” He retired at the young age of 55, as he was ready to pursue his many interests outside of work.
To enumerate Lee’s interests, hobbies and talents could fill an entire volume, as his appetite for new challenges continued until his last days. Here are a few: tennis, racquetball, hunting, fishing, backpacking, hiking, RV travel, flying, sailing, tapping maple trees and making maple syrup (he made a boiling rig for this purpose), making cider in a cider press he built, gardening, raising animals of all kinds, scuba diving, music (sousaphone, snare drum, tuba, guitar, banjo), woodworking, furniture making, rockhounding, lapidary, building (houses, sailboat, canoes, and a two-seat airplane which he flew from New York to Prescott, Arizona with wife Wanda). He also found time to substitute teach in Prescott and Chino Valley, and served for many years on the Morgan Ranch Road Association Board, and Williamson Valley Volunteer Fire Dept.
Lee was first married to Diane Garrett, with whom he had four children. He married Wanda Munro in 1977, to whom he remained happily married for 38 years. Lee and Wanda moved from New York to Arizona in 1990 building their Prescott home themselves from the foundation up. In recent years, they contemplated moving from this home on five acres in Williamson Valley to a smaller home in town, but Lee couldn’t bear the thought of leaving behind his labor of love and such a peaceful country home.
Lee was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2005. Over the years, as the disease progressed, he would be slowly stripped of many of his interests and hobbies. He faced his illness with equanimity, and rarely complained. He chose to focus instead on what he could still do, and kept looking for new opportunities. When he could no longer play racquetball, he swam. He acquired a border collie, “Corker,” four years ago, to ensure he would have motivation to keep moving, for the dog’s sake, if not his own.
Lee was a gentleman, in the truest sense of the word, a lover of life, a friend, a father and grandfather, a loving husband, and he will be sorely missed by the many lives he touched.
He is survived by his wife, Wanda; children Sharon Blake of Ft. Bragg, California, Marci Revette of Saratoga Springs, New York, Howard Blake of Saratoga Springs, New York, Adam (Karri) of Fortuna, California; five grandchildren; five great–grandchildren; two nephews; and one great nephew.
A celebration of life and memorial for Lee will be at 7 p.m. on June 25, 2016, at the Johnson/Brown household, 15890 N. Star Lane, Prescott, Arizona. A Military Honor Guard Ceremony will begin at 7:30 p.m., with a Memorial program to follow. Charitable contributions in honor of Lee can be made to the Parkinson and Movement Disorder Alliance, P.O. Box 36233, Tucson, AZ 85704 or the Prescott Meals on Wheels program, 1280 E. Rosser St., Prescott, AZ 86301.
Please post your racquetball player, so we will never forget those whom help pave the way for the rest of us.