An Appreciation: Don Blake

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Don Blake

Published with thanks to the Charles River Wheelmen and The WheelPeople editors

Don Blake was perhaps the longest-serving of the Charles River Wheelmen cycling club: he was club treasurer from 1972 until 2011, close to 40 years. Don passed away on February 15, 2021, at age 89. We extend our condolences to his friends and family and share memories from Bedford members and others who remember Don.

Jack Donohue is currently Webmaster but has previously held volunteer positions too numerous to list. My first introduction to Don was getting a copy of a cue sheet labeled the “Don Blake Horrendous Hundred”  which I found out later was the ride he did every week from his house in Bedford.  It wound its way into the hilly parts of Southern New Hampshire.  Don didn’t make much fanfare about it, but he did this challenging ride on his own each week.  The original route did not survive but I suspect there was a large overlap with subsequent CRW classics, like the fall century “The Souhegan River Ride.”   Don was a club member since 1969 and spent most of those years as treasurer.  In his own quiet way, he supported the club in many other ways: board member, century volunteer, party host.  He offered his house as Century Central to store all the equipment used for the centuries, much to his wife Janet’s dismay.  Though modest and unassuming, Don did a lot to make the club what it is today.

Susan Grieb is a past president and was a major contributor to the club’s centuries for many years. Don was a devoted cyclist and contributed in so many ways to the club.  I really miss seeing and working with both him and Janet over the years. For more than 20 years,  Don and Janet volunteered for every CRW Century.  I loved being greeted by them when I got to the site to do Century setup. At one point Don innocently volunteered to give us space in their basement to store all of the equipment we use to run the Centuries.    He ended up storing, cleaning, maintaining the CRW Century inventory for many years wrestling all of it up and down and out of the old-style bulkhead twice a season.  Thank goodness for Jan as well as she made sure the water jugs were washed and sterilized after each event.  I also looked forward to their spring ride party that they generously provided to the club.

Rosalie Blum is a former CRW board member. This is sad indeed. Don and I co-led a ride for about 10 years back in the 80s that always ended at his house where vivacious Jan would have a sumptuous feast ready with home-baked cakes, salads, and sandwiches.  Several of us met them for a holiday breakfast at a local diner every year. Don rode solo to Rockport and back from his Bedford home many Sundays for years. We drove together to many board meetings. Don assisted with parking at centuries and Jan helped with registration and check-in. Although she didn’t ride herself, she always generously supported Don and the club.  They were two of the very best.

Ken Hablow is a former CRW president and ran Climb to the Clouds for decades. There was one cute story about Don being treasurer. Back in the days when we did not do pre-registration for the Centuries and collected cash at the start, Don would always show up later in the afternoon to collect the receipts since he did not trust anyone with all that cash. There was one time when the money never showed up in the bank account. It turns out, Don was walking around with $2,000 in his briefcase for 2 weeks.

Mike Hanauer is a former CRW President. Years ago, and for many years, Don led a CRW ride on Easter Sunday from their Bedford home – and wife Janet prepared an after-ride feast. Don didn’t care that it was Easter, but Janet wanted it to end for that reason. It did end. Also, when I became CRW prez, I came to realize that we had a major cash flow problem and did not have enough funds to cover expenses. It turned out treasurer Don loved to write checks but did not take to read treasurer reports that covered credits, debits, and cash flow. We fixed the problem by creating, in addition to treasurer, a VP of finance position. That position exists to this very day.

John Springfield is a former CRW President. I met Don soon after I joined the CRW in 1973. In addition to riding with him on the club’s Sunday rides, I recall seeing him in Vermont on the annual TOSRV-East ride.  He also attended the 1980 LAW Centennial in Newport, and 1986 and 1996 CRW anniversaries. When I became editor, he and I coordinated the renewal of memberships. One time I was over at his house in Bedford, and I was impressed that he had a whole room dedicated to bicycle memorabilia.  Really cool! In the 1980s Don and Jan ran an annual ride from their house in Bedford. I can still taste the fantastic food that was served after the ride. Every organization needs people to keep the machinery going.  Collecting and depositing money is not every bike rider’s cup of tea.  But Don quietly served the club as treasurer for 40 years.  Quite impressive. So from one quiet guy to another, farewell, Don. May the wind always be at your back.

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2 thoughts on “An Appreciation: Don Blake

  1. I knew him as Mr. Blake. As a kid I lived six houses away on Davis Road in Bedford. His son, Andy, was my friend. My friend, Doug and I loved to ride our bikes anywhere we could around Bedford and the beautiful surrounding towns. We started to think about touring and we knew who to see for advice. We were high school juniors when we planned a 250 mile, 4-day ride to the Adirondacks. We sat with Mr. Blake in his basement, amidst more bike tools and parts than they have at most bike shops. He was quiet and understated, but full of information given with a slight grin. He bought Doug and me our first subscriptions to Bicycling magazine. One piece of touring advice I remember to this day is to keep a mixed bag of screws, nuts, etc. in your bag. I can’t tell you how many times that came in handy. After that first trip Doug and I planned to bicycle across the United States 3 years later. In preparing for that trip we talked a number of times with Mr. Blake. As we rode during the summer of 1983, we sent Mr. Blake postcards and relied on Doug’s mother, Jan, to update Jan Blake to update Mr. Blake. When we returned we visited the basement and told stories. Mr. Blake listened proudly, knowing he had a part in our ride and our zeal. Thank you, Mr. Blake.

  2. Don and I worked together fir many years. I was supposed to be his boss. That arrangement didn’t always work out. So we worked together. Don was always the first to be at the shop. He checked orders from the previous day, set up his supplies for his day’s shipping and started the coffee. This was all very admirable but as I said Don was always the first at work, sometimes forty five minutes ahead of the rest of us. If I came in late the coffee had been on the hot plate for an hour by the time I got to pour some. It would be awful. One time I asked Don if he would mind starting the coffee a bit later. He looked puzzled. I told him it was really boiled down by the time I got to it. His reply, “Oh, no. It’s fine. Coffee’s coffee.” He never changed.

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