Peter D. Blakely ’51 died on December 6, 2022, in Orange, California.
(The following was provided by the Palladium-Times on January 3, 2023)
Peter (“Pete”) Blakely passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday night, Dec. 6, 2022, in Orange, CA, with family by his side. At 92 years old, Pete recently became a California resident once more after residing in Texas the past four decades. Having lived all over the country and traveled throughout the world, moving and packing are routines with which Pete was quite familiar. As a man drawn to flying from an early age, Pete served in the U.S. Air Force, flying F-86s, and then built a successful career working with jet engines, which eventually led to him earning the title of senior vice president at Aviation Power Supply. Born in Pulaski, NY, to parents Roger and Grace Blakely, Pete was their oldest son. Growing up on the farm their father managed, Pete spent a lot of time with his younger brother (Roger Jr.) and his sister, Bette. As a child, Pete enjoyed helping with the animals and even drove the milk truck to make deliveries at twelve years old. Once a month when his father drove to town on farm business, Pete accompanied him and spent all day at the Syracuse Airport watching the planes. He attended Bowdoin College, transferred to Cornell University, then temporarily put his educational pursuit on hold to join the Air Force. He attended the flying school in San Antonio, TX, where Elizabeth Serface was secretary to the base adjunct; mutual friends introduced them, and in 1952, Pete and Betty were married. Assigned to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, Pete earned his wings and was deployed to Korea in 1952. He completed one hundred missions during the Korean War as an F-86 pilot — one mission resulted in him having to eject out of his F-86 fighter jet. Upon his return from the war, he taught gunnery and tactics at the base to other trainees. A few years later, Pete and Betty’s family grew with the birth of their oldest son, Kenneth. A year later, the family moved to Ithaca, NY, to allow Pete to finish his mechanical engineering degree at Cornell. During this time Pete flew with the New York National Guard out of Syracuse, NY, and spent snowy Christmases at his childhood home at Douglaston Manor Farms. Pete’s travels continued with a jet engine job in New Mexico, where he and Betty welcomed their daughter (Anne) into the world. The warm weather in New Mexico contrasted their next move to Ohio, where their youngest son (Andrew) was born, making their family complete. While raising children, Pete ran election poll booths, sang in the choir, and traveled extensively for work. The family moved to California in the 1960s when Pete was offered a position with Aviation Power Supply, where he continued working with aircraft engines and traveling the world. Some of Pete’s favorite places he visited included: New York, Switzerland, Germany, France, England, Netherlands (Amsterdam), Iran, Japan, and Morocco. Retiring in 1988, Pete and Betty bought a house that backed up to a golf course. Pete enjoyed golfing, water-skiing, and napping. The pair traveled extensively within the States, especially with friends from the Air Force. While their travels mainly took place domestically by car, they took an extended trip to Europe with Pete’s sister and brother-in-law, where they visited England, France, Germany, and Switzerland. His passion for helping others led him to Sertoma Club — a service organization for the deaf and hard of hearing — where he worked on service projects to assist people with speech, language, and hearing disorders in the community. He also tutored with other seniors at some of the local K-12 schools. As their grandchildren transitioned into young adults, Pete and Betty enjoyed having granddaughters Heather and Kristin visit their home for several weeks every summer; Pete cherished time with family and exuded love in everything he did, even making jokes at the expense of others. Pete is survived by his wife of seventy years, Betty; his children: Kenneth (Karen), Anne (Casey), and Andrew; his grandchildren: Heather, Kristin (Brad), Cressie (Michael), Cory, and Ashley; his great-grandchildren: Reagan, Sydney, Miles, Michael, Ezra, Nevaeh, and Trey; and his sister-in-law: Tokiko. His family, friends, and care-workers will miss his kindness, humor, thoughtfulness for others — Pete championed for a larger bus to allow more residents to attend excursions at the senior living residency in California — and his passion for desserts. Some of Pete’s favorite snacks included chocolate milkshakes, pumpkin pie, peanut butter cookies, and jellybeans.