A sis­ter’s love en­dures 30 years af­ter fa­tal crash

Kent County News - - FRONT PAGE - By TR­ISH MCGEE pm­cgee@thekent­coun­tynews.com

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

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