A sister’s love endures 30 years after fatal crash
WORTON — Anyone who thinks Kent County is flat countryside apparently hasn’t ridden a 10-speed Giant carbon road bike from Rock Hall to Galena — in the wind.
“I found every dam hill,” Angela Blake said with a chuckle Sunday afternoon during a pit stop at alma mater Kent County High School in Worton.
Blake was 15 miles into a roughly 30-mile trek, part of a training regimen that will bring her back to KCHS on May 23. She will ride 100 miles that day in order to present an annual $500 scholarship in memory of her older brother.
This will be the 29th installment of the Mark Matthew Blake Scholarship, awarded to a graduating senior athlete who demonstrates outstanding grit, effort and sportsmanship.
Mark Blake, Class of 1984, was a triple-threat athlete at KCHS, lettering in football, wrestling and lacrosse.
“He wasn’t the fastest kid on the team, or the best, but he would never give up. He was determined and worked hard. Even if it was a rotten season, he loved the experience,” Angela Blake said of her brother, who was only 22 at the time of his death nearly 30 years ago.
“He would show up and do,” she said.
Mark Blake died July 3, 1988, taken off life support the day after a crash on U.S. Route 301 near the Mary- land-Delaware state line.
Blake, who was one semester away from earning a bachelor’s degree in communications, was in transit from one summer job to a second summer job when the crash occurred at about 5:30 p.m. His sister Angela was waiting for him at their home in Galena; they worked at the same restaurant in Newark, Del., and were to carpool there that night.
Every year since the crash, Mark Blake’s family has awarded a modest scholarship as a way to honor him and a generation of Trojans who have embraced their high school experiences.
Angela Blake and her sisters, Dawn and Kathleen, all KCHS graduates, will be on hand to present this year’s scholarship during the annual Senior Awards assembly. Their father Bill Blake will be there also.
Angela Blake’s 100 Miles for Mark campaign is both a fundraiser for the scholarship — the aim is to collect $3,000 this year — and a way to observe the 30th anniversary of her brother’s death.
It’s also a celebration of the challenges she has overcome since a serious health scare three years ago in
April, when she was diagnosed with a vestibular disorder that left her unable to walk or speak.
“I wasn’t supposed to be able to drive again, so that’s why I started riding a bike,” she said.
Though Blake still has “balance issues,” her recovery is pretty miraculous. She has been able to return to her job as a licensed clinical social worker (for an elementary school alternative program) and therapist.
After successfully tackling the Sea Gull Century last October — she did the 63.5mile tour that begins and ends on the campus of Salisbury University — Blake said she started thinking about her next challenge.
“Maybe I can ride 100 miles,” she remembered thinking to herself. That became her goal. Over the final two weeks of training, Blake hopes to cycle 35 to 40 miles a day.
She rode 15 miles last Saturday and about 30 miles on Sunday during a weekend
stay in Kent County.
“If I can bike 100 miles a week, I can do it in a day,” she said.
She is averaging about 115 miles a week.
Blake, who celebrated her 50th birthday on May 3, said she is ready and raring to go. So is the robin’s egg-blue bike she calls “Fast and Furious,” which has had a complete tune-up with new cable and two new tires.
The plan is to leave her home in Salisbury at sunrise Wednesday, May 23. The first stop will be at Salisbury University, where her brother was an undergraduate.
Blake will follow U.S. Route 50 up the Shore, turning onto state Route 213 for the homestretch into Queen Anne’s and Kent counties. Law enforcement in several of the Mid-Shore counties has promised escorts along the more heavily traveled roadways.
Blake’s sister Dawn will follow her in a support vehicle.
When Blake reaches Chestertown, she will rendezvous with a handful of friends at Procolino’s in the
Kent Plaza shopping center and they will ride along for the last six miles of the journey.
Each year, the Blake family chooses the recipient of the scholarship awarded in Mark’s memory. Candidates must have a cumulative grade point average of at least 2.5. They are asked to answer two questions in an essay: How has high school sports prepared you for the challenges of college? What was your most memorable experience as a team member?
Angela Blake, only 18 months younger than her brother, graduated from Kent County High School in 1987.
“We were very close,” she said, recalling the typical sibling high jinks that included chasing her around the KCHS cafeteria for ice cream money and tying the shoelaces of her cleats together.
Angela Blake also remembered her brother as protective of his three younger sisters and a devoted only son. He was thoughtful and generous, the kind of guy who would give you his last $10 or the shirt off his back.
Mark Blake was known to mow the lawns of his elderly neighbors without expecting to be paid and to help them carry their groceries from their cars.
When her brother was late picking her up for work on that July evening all those summers ago, Angela Blake got impatient and went ahead without him.
But soon after she had arrived at work, sensing that something was wrong, she got in her car and backtracked the route she knew her brother would be traveling. She came up on the crash while the state police and other first responders were still on the scene.
She described it as “a frozen moment in time” that she carries with her every day.
While acknowledging that her brother’s sudden death is something that she will never get past, even after 30 years, Blake said she has tried to “carry on and make the best of every opportunity in life, like I know he would want.”
Contributions to the 100 Miles for Mark campaign can be made to the Mark Blake Scholarship Fund and mailed to PNC, 800 Washington Ave., Chestertown, MD 21620 or Bill Blake, P.O. Box 45, Galena, MD 21635.
Galena-born Angela Blake is cycling 100 miles from Salisbury to Kent County High School, a fundraiser for the annual Mark Matthew Blake Scholarship that will be awarded this year on May 23. PHOTO BY TRISH MCGEE