In Memory

John Wesley Blake - Class Of 1947

On September 25, 2022, Lt. Col. (Ret.) John W Blake Sr., 93, once again slipped the surly bonds of earth. This time, rather than dancing the skies in the pilot's seat, he joined the love of his life -- his wife, Mary -- in their eternal dance.

Born on March 31, 1929, in Helen, W.Va., to Robert Wesley and Edith (Clark) Blake, "Johnny" was raised in coal-mining towns in West Virginia and Kentucky by his father and beloved stepmother, Mildred (McDonald), along with his sister, Wanda Lee. He called Jenkins, Ky., home for many years and established life-long friendships with members of the Jenkins High School basketball team. At 21, he left his studies at the University of Kentucky and joined the U.S. Air Force, where he trained as a pilot. For more than 20 years, he served his country, bravely piloting C-130 Hercules aircraft, and he earned a Silver Star for two precarious, same-day landings while under heavy fire in Khe Sanh, Vietnam. After retiring, he worked for Ralston Purina's Jack in the Box restaurant chain and then for another 20 years with the U.S. Department of the Army at Fort Eustis and Fort Monroe.

Preceded in death by Mary S. Blake, his wife of nearly 66 years, he is survived by sons John Blake II (Tayna) of Chesapeake, Va., and Gregory Blake (Lisa) of Yorktown, Va.; daughters Jennifer Waagner (Walter) of Athens, Ga., Denise Tysinger (Mark) of Poquoson, Va., and Laura Tillett (Scott) of Cary, N.C.; as well as 12 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

While quite proud of his extraordinary actions in service to country, his family deeply admired his steadfast devotion to loved ones, engineering mindset and do-it-yourself determination. In his last year, he experienced a spiritual rebirth and felt intensely the gift of everyday existence and the promise of Love's eternal bonds.

For their care and friendship, the family thanks Marlene and Jim Welsh, the neighbors at Oxford Run, and the community at First Baptist Church in Nickelsville, Va., where he was baptized and attended virtually every week. A private memorial gathering will be held on Oct. 23. Those who are looking for a way to honor his memory may consider donating