Peace found in a cockpit
Who: Russell Blake of Kansas City. When and how he died: June 6 from an infection linked to heart problems. Age: 86. Wild blue yonder: A Kansas City native and U.S. Navytrained fighter pilot, Russell felt most at home in the cockpit. “He loved the precision that was needed for flying,” said Ruth, his wife of 64 years. “Back in the olden days, he enjoyed all of the aerobatics you could do.” Russell’s training included being certified to land and take off from an aircraft carrier. He was waiting to be sent the Pacific theater when World War II ended. “He never went to battle,” Ruth said. “He came home, got out (of the Navy) and we got married.” He spent more than two decades in the Naval Air Reserves, achieved the rank of squadron commander, and flew nearly 4,000 hours. He obtained his private pilot’s license and often ferried aircraft across the country for clients. He was a member of the KC Navy Aero Club. “He loved to fly for any reason, “Ruth said. “He liked the peace and calmness of flying.” Russell shared his love of flying with his children and grandchildren, two of whom are studying aeronautics in college. He parlayed his knowledge into a 39-year career with the Federal Aviation Administration, first as an air traffic controller and later as a data systems specialist. “He hardly missed a day of work and was always counted on,” said his son Brian Blake. This month, the FAA posthumously honored Russell with the Wright Brothers award, given to select pilots with 50 years or more of accident-free flying. Family man: Russell attended Southwest High School before graduating from Westport High School, where he played the trombone in the marching band. Later, he played in the American Legion Band for 39 years. An Eagle Scout, he was an honorary warrior in the Tribe of Mic-O-Say and oversaw his two sons’ Scouting activities. Both also became Eagle Scouts. Brian said his father had a quiet gentleness about him. “You knew what he expected out of you,” Brian said. “He let you know when he was pleased with you and when he wasn’t,” but not in a mean way. The family had a place at the Lake of the Ozarks and spent time there each summer. A regular at Central United Methodist Church, Russell also was a volunteer at Shepherd’s Center of Kansas City. He and Ruth enjoyed attending musical programs. Though Ruth was involved in numerous activities, Russell preferred to be the man behind the woman. “I did my thing, and he was smart enough to let me do it,” Ruth said with a chuckle. Survivors include: His wife, three children and their spouses, and five grandchildren. Final thoughts: Brian described his father as a true leader. “He set the standard by leading by example,” Brian said. “He pounded into me on a daily basis as a kid, ‘Do the job right.’ ” To suggest community members to profile, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Russell Blake worked for the Federal Aviation Administration for 39 years.