Harold Blake, Jr., 95, of Basking Ridge, formally of Mendham Township, died peacefully on Sunday, July 19, 2020, at his home at Fellowship Village.
Born on May 13, 1925, in River Edge, NJ, he was the first son of the late Anna Jenkins Blake and Harold Blake, Sr. He spent his early years in Jamaica, Queens. After the death of his mother and step mother, his father married Katherine Wheelock and purchased land in Saddle River, NJ where the family built a home, moving there in 1940.
After graduating Ramsey High School in June 1943, Mr. Blake chose to follow in the footsteps of his father and joined the U.S. Navy. While traveling with his unit, he participated in convoys thru the Panama Canal. During his years of service, he was a member of the Seabees and was responsible for building hospitals and barracks throughout the Pacific Theater.
Mr. Blake returned state-side in 1946 to Grand Central Station and surprised his father at his office at New York Life Insurance Company taking him out to see the sights for the day. Shortly after returning he received an honorable discharge with several decorations including the Philippine Liberation Medal.
After leaving the service, he attended the University of Maryland receiving a B. S. in Agriculture specializing in Floriculture. As an older student living off campus he was friends with the actor Purnell Roberts and saw him perform in several college plays. Upon graduation in 1951 he began his career under the tutelage of the famous propagator Henry Hohmann at Kingsville Nursery in Maryland. Later he returned to Saddle River, NJ where he began Blake’s Nursery.
He soon met Doris Calkoen of Midland Park and they married in 1956. They lived in Midland Park until 1968 when he accepted a position with Rutgers University working in New Brunswick, Newark and at his favorite “gem” Willowwood Arboretum where he found his true calling with fellow horticulturists becoming great friends with his mentor Dr. Benjamin Blackburn. The family lived with their daughter, Elizabeth, in Bernardsville and Mendham Township until 2006 , when he moved to Fellowship Village. He spent his retirement years consulting in private garden design and maintenance, spending time with his daughter and family and watching horse racing, the Yankees and the Giants.
He dearly loved his wife of 46 years, Doris Marie, who predeceased him in 2004. He leaves a daughter, Elizabeth Bagnato of Basking Ridge, and grandson Alexander Bagnato. He was predeceased by his son in law Joseph Bagnato and his dear friend Emily Heim. He also leaves two brothers, George of Newton, NJ and Warren of Cape Cod, MA, and 6 nieces and nephews.
A graveside service will be held on Tuesday, July 28th at 11:00 at Somerset Hills Memorial Park in Basking Ridge. Arrangements are by Bailey Funeral Home.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to The Willowwood Foundation, PO Box 218, Gladstone, NJ.