Peace found in a cock­pit

The Kansas City Star (Sunday) - - REMEMBRANCES - By RUTH BAUM BI­GUS

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 trib­utes@kc­


Rus­sell Blake worked for the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion for 39 years.

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