For Edward Blake last Saturday was a very special day for him, not only did he celebrate his 84th birthday but he was also awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for his lifelong commitment in making North West River a better place for everyone in the community.
Mr. Blake was born on October 20,1928 to Alfreda Blake (nee Davis). His mother was the first residential school teacher for North West River and his father, Sidney Blake was a trapper.
He is the oldest of nine siblings and grew up in the family home, a trapper’s cottage at a place called the rapids, which is three miles up the river near North West River.
During the winter months Mr. Blake would make the three-mile walk across the river ice to attend school and then make the same walk back to the back to the cottage.
In his biography Mr. Blake had quit school to help support his family and go with his father and do trapping in the winter months. He also banded ducks and did salmon fish in the summer.
“Good hard work never hurt anyone, I learned an awful lot with my Dad from salmon fishing, to trapping with my Dad, out on the coast bird banding. Then I went to work in Goose Bay and I learned a lot there to,” he told the Labradorian.
He said he was part of a crew that spray painted the first 50 houses in Spruce Park.
He was instrumental in shaping the community of NWR and as a young man was a heavy equipment operator. His skill in that field came to good use when he was called upon to clear the land and dig the basement for the hospital that served North West River for many years.
Mr. Blake also cleared the land for the graveyard, skating rink and also helped his neighbours by clearing their land as well.
He played a role in helping to get NWR incorporated in 1958. He served as a volunteer on many committees, offering advice and
lending a hand where needed. He served on the Mokami Trail Corporation, the local School Board and the Board of the United Church in North West River.
Mr. Blake opened the first gas station in NWR and recalls a time before the bridge was built he ran a hose from Sheshatshiu across the river to NWR where he loaded the gas onto a truck and drove it to his station where he unloaded the fuel.
“The first year I was in business I used to go the people’s homes and pick up their barrels and drain the water and oil out of them and take them to the dock and fill their barrels at a cost of 13.36 a barrel and that included tax,” he laughed.
Mr. Blake said he used to deliver up 800 barrels of fuel to community members.
He then opened an Arctic Cat Snowmobile shop, where he repaired and sold snowmobiles for 35 years.
“I remember when the snowmobiles would come by boat. They would load four at a time on my truck and I would go to the shop and unload them by hand. We did not have a crane to lift them like they did on the boat,” he said.
The Family was amazed at Mr. Blake’s most recent and accomplishment in restoring his family home at the Rapids, which was originally built by his grandfather, Thomas Alfred Blake in the 1800s.
His three daughters, two sons and family members are very proud of this heritage home. This sits next to the home that he built with his own hands.
His granddaughter Maria Murphy in her speech said, “For as long as I can remember my grandfather has been a devoted family man. He worked hard to provide for his family, to ensure they were happy and knew they were loved.”
She said he was always hard working and taught her many things in life, especially that hard work will get you far and earn you respect that will last a life time.
“My grandfather has taught me the importance of family. He is there for each one of us if needed and takes pride in all of his grandchildren’s accomplishments,” she said in her speech.
Keith Russell, MHA for Lake Melville, said it was a pleasure to attend the gathering in Northwest River for the presentation of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal to Mr. Blake.
“The medal is intended to honor significant contributions and achievements by Canadians, and is a perfect fit for Mr. Blake. It was my honor to welcome the standing room only crowd at the Labrador Interpretation Centre and present the group with a biography of Mr. Blake which painted a picture of a man that knows the value of hard work and the lessons of tough times,” said Russell.
He said Mr. Blake has displayed the resilience and ambition that is common with Labradorians.
“He has raised a wonderful family and become a successful entrepreneur in the Big Land. Mr. Blake has always had a community focus maintains that,” added Russell.
Russell said he was very pleased to then have Mr. Blake’s granddaughter Maria Murphy address the gathering and read the letter she had written to him which spoke to Mr. Blake’s dedication to his family and why he is deserving of this recognition.
“Mr. Blake has clearly made a huge difference in the lives of all of the members of his family and indeed his entire community. The work of Mr. Edwards made the community a better place. It was an honour to recognize Mr. Ed Blake for his commitment to NWR and present him with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal,” Russell said.
Mr. Blake continues to live an active life at home with his dog, Rover. His wife Kathleen, who suffers from Alzheimer, lives at the Seniors Complex in Happy Valley, Goose Bay.