Gerald W. Blakeley, Jr. ’43, P ’75, P ’76 died on July 2, 2021, in Osterville, Massachusetts.
(The following was published by the The Boston Globe on July 6, 2021)
Gerald W. Blakeley Jr., a pioneering developer of Route 128 and former owner of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, died Friday in his Osterville home.
He was 100 and also lived in the Boston section of Chestnut Hill.
One of Greater Boston’s most significant developers, Mr. Blakeley joined the firm Cabot, Cabot & Forbes in 1948 and rose to become its president, and later the chairman.
Anticipating the post-World War II growth of the suburbs, Mr. Blakeley helped engineer that possibility for Boston residents who wanted to find work outside the city — and for those from outside the area who flocked to jobs at companies in his firm’s developments along what became one of the nation’s premier high-tech highways.
“It was exciting to see that we took people out of the Somervilles and the Dorchesters and the Chelseas into the suburbs … and their whole lifestyle changed,” he recalled in a 2001 Globe interview. “It was exciting to me that this was changing the face of Boston.”
During his tenure as an executive, president, and chairman, Cabot, Cabot & Forbes was also a major developer in the city, with properties that included New England Merchants National Bank, and the buildings for the Boston Co., Stone & Webster Engineering Corp., and Blue Cross Blue Shield.
After selling his interest in the firm, he established Blakeley Investment Co. and later founded the Blakeley Properties real estate firm with his family.
He was active on numerous boards and was particularly invested in his work with the Morehouse School of Medicine and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and the organization’s clubs in Boston.
“He really was devoted to the Boys and Girls Clubs,” said his wife, Dr. Tenley Albright. “He was always a wonderful mentor to young people.”
Born on Nov. 8, 1920, Mr. Blakeley graduated from Belmont High School and was studying biochemistry and physics at Bowdoin College in Maine when Pearl Harbor was attacked during World War II.
A pacifist up to that point, he joined the Navy as a pilot, having learned to fly while at Bowdoin. He later was skipper of a submarine chaser, his family said, and was among five white officers commanding a predominantly Black crew.
He later told family and friends that his frustration at systemic racism built into the GI Bill, which assisted comparatively few Black veterans, led him to become involved with the board at the Morehouse School of Medicine, which was part of Morehouse College, a historically Black men’s college in Atlanta.
Mr. Blakeley’s first two marriages, to Anne Whitcomb, with whom he had four sons, and Polly Figg, with whom he had a daughter, ended in divorce.
In 1981, he married Albright, a surgeon and a former Olympic figure skating champion.
“I loved it that he had so many, many different interests and had such enthusiasm and was such a positive person,” she said.