Dr. Keith Blake, 94, passed away in Long Prairie on February 21, 2021. He had been suffering from cardio-pulmonary arrest.
Keith was born in Motley, Minnesota, on March 19, 1926, the younger son of Fulton and Lucille (Ostrander) Blake. The family spent his early years on the family farm in Motley headed by Fulton’s brother Harding. Fulton was employed by Peter’s Meats for many years which meant moves for the family around Minnesota. Keith attended four different schools during high school, Long Prairie, Clarissa, Willmar, and Detroit Lakes. He ran track and cross country and played basketball.
After Keith graduated high school in 1944, he enlisted in the Navy and spent the remainder of World War II in the South Pacific on the island of Saipan. He was an electrician and helped ensure ships could refuel rapidly and also supplied his fellow Navy mates with freshly made ice cream.
Returning to Minnesota, Keith enrolled at St. Cloud State, taking pre-optometry requirements. The campus population had increased so much that Keith’s dorm room was a cell in the nearby prison. He completed those courses and entered the Northern Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago in 1948. He was accompanied by his bride Carol Traver, who he married in Detroit Lakes just before leaving for Chicago.
Keith graduated from Optometry School in 1950 and returned to Minnesota, establishing his first optometric practice in Hawley, Minnesota where daughter Marcia and son Greg were born. In 1954 the family moved to Long Prairie where Keith established his long time care of the vision needs of people in town and the surrounding area. Son Kevin and daughter Lisa were born. Kevin later became Keith’s office manager.
Keith had other business pursuits. He was a distributor of the Umbaugh gyroplane in the 1960’s and later an investor in LakeView Supper Club on Lake Charlotte. He was also very busy with civic organizations in Long Prairie. He was a member of the American Legion and served as Commander. The VFW enjoyed his service as QuarterMaster during part of his membership. Poppy Day Chair was his assignment for twenty years. He was also a member of the Lions Club.
Keith was a member of the First United Methodist Church (now Peace United) in Long Prairie and served in several capacities. His grandfather Charles Blake had been pastor of that church earlier in the twentieth century.
Keith enjoyed following the pursuits of his children and Kevin’s children in sports and in the Long Prairie High School Band. He was concerned about the direction of US History instruction and championed the publishing in magazine format of the story of the founding of the United States. His dream was to have every high school student in the country to have their own copy. He was able to have 1000 copies printed and they were used in local schools.
Keith enjoyed fishing several lakes in Minnesota and took annual fishing trips to Canada. He also hunted and kept his family supplied with ducks, pheasants, and venison. He made occasion trips west and occasionally antelope was on the family menu.
Most of Keith’s trips were short because he was in solo private practice. One memorable exception was in December 1968. Christmas was spent on the edge of the Grand Canyon.
Extended family members were visited including Keith’s Grandmother Ostrander in Santa Cruiz. The busiest day was one no other family could match. The morning was spent at Marineland and lunchtime had a stop at the Umbaugh factory. At 3pm the family arrived at Disneyland. The Christmas parade could be heard from the parking lot as the entrance was approached. Keith was certain a few hours would suffice, but the children threatened to mutiny if they had to miss the 10pm Christmas parade. We stayed to closing at midnight.
A lake cabin on Battle Lake was purchased in the early 1960’s. Keith could enjoy fishing with family as well as water sports—swimming, skiing, and sailing. In the early 1970’s, that was sold and a closer cabin was found on Lake Osakis which reduced the travel time.
Keith wanted to extend the swimming season and installed an inground pool. He became a fulltime resident on Lake Osakis in 1974 when he and Carol were divorced. Keith continued to spend his summers there, including the last one in 2020.
Keith never lost his passion for travel and bragged that he had visited all 50 states except for Maine. He often was joined by his long time travel companion Nettie Peterson. Among their many travels was a trip to Tacoma, Washington, to visit Keith’s brother Francis, visiting many national parks along the way.Keith made one trip to Europe. His travels took him to Florida and after several winters on a big sailboat near Melbourne, he purchased a home in Key Largo. There he enjoyed hosting children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren during winter vacations. He often stopped to visit Marcia between his Minnesota summers and Key Largo winters. Thanksgiving was celebrated in Chicago or at her family’s lakehouse in Michigan. The trips north were usually at the end of April to get back for the May American Legion meeting and then for the opening of fishing in Minnesota.
Keith was able to have a time last summer with a visit at Lake Osakis by his four children who have rarely all been with Keith at the same time. The family visit also included the children’s spouses and Kevin’s daughters and grandchildren.
Keith was fortunate to have Greg join him fulltime several years ago. Greg was responsible for household tasks which left Keith plenty of time to enjoy his surroundings. Health issues plagued Keith the last months of his life and he had hospitalizations in Miami and Long Prairie. His final days were spent in the Long Prairie Nursing Home. With COVID quarantine requirements, visits were limited. Daughter Lisa and granddaughters Sarah and Kristen were able to visit him in person while other family members had video visits.
Keith was preceded in death by his parents Fulton and Lucille Blake, brother Francis, many aunts, uncles, and cousins. He is survived by his children Marcia (Jim Collins), Greg, Kevin (Debra), and Lisa Knudson (Lou), grandchildren Brian, Sean, Sarah, Kristen, Philip, and Alison, and ten great grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements are being overseen by Iten Funeral Home in Browerville. A Celebration of Life is being planned for the spring. Interment will be in the cemetery in Evergreen Cemetery in Motley, Minnesota in the Blake family plot.
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