Edward “Ed” Leonard Blake, Sr., 82, journalist, public relations specialist, tree farmer, and father of Western Farm Press Associate Editor Cary Blake, died Sept. 18, at Springdale Hills farm near Pocahontas, Miss.
He owned and created Mississippi's oldest choose-and-cut Christmas tree farm in 1961. As a private landowner after World War II, he undertook and pioneered landscape restoration work that is now recognized as essential to sustaining nature's productivity and health.
After he graduation from Clinton (Miss.) High School, he attended Mississippi State University until he was drafted. He served in the Navy during World War II on the Admiral's flagship of the Atlantic fleet.
Following military service, he attended Ursinus College at Collegeville, Pa., then moved back to Mississippi, where he earned a B.A. degree in English at Mississippi College.
He was a member of college varsity basketball and track teams, and for many years held the school's (cane) pole vaulting record. He also edited the college literary magazine.
He was editor of several central Mississippi newspapers before becoming a police beat reporter with the Jackson Daily News.
Later, he was information director for the Mississippi Farm Bureau for 35 years, serving as author, reporter, and storyteller. He reveled in telling the stories of Mississippi farmers and agriculture. He served as managing editor of Farm Bureau's publications.
He was the author of two Mississippi Farm Bureau history books, and in the 1980s, his column, “Ag Affairs,” ran in newspapers statewide.
After retirement in 1988, he continued to travel the state, writing feature stories for Mississippi Farm Country magazine. He traveled the world, leading tours for Farm Bureau members.
Active in veteran's affairs, he was instrumental in efforts that resulted in the construction of a monument on the grounds of the Hinds County Courthouse to honor veterans, and created a memorial at Springdale Hills honoring his Pocahontas boyhood friends killed in World War II.
On his beloved Springdale Hills Tree Farm and Arboretum, he grew Christmas trees and flora from around the world. He loved hosting school groups in their search for nature's wonders and the perfect Christmas tree.
He is survived by his wife, Charlotte, and five children: Edward L. (Marilyn) Blake, Jr., Hattiesburg, Miss.; Judy Blake (Frank) Barnett, Braxton, Miss.; Wendy (Buddy) Reddick, Terry, Miss.; Cary (Pamela) Blake, Gilbert, Ariz.; and Andy (Vicki) Blake, Madison, Miss.; nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.