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Saturday, April 29, 2023
Saturday, April 29, 2023
Clarence Shirley Blake, 87, of Thurmond WV, passed away on Thursday, April 20th, 2023.
If love is measured by the stories they will tell, Shirley Blake was incredibly loved. Oh, the stories they will tell. Shirley was loved deeply and he loved others deeply.
Born April 18th, 1936 in Oak Hill WV, he was the son of the late Clarence “Pete” Gordon Blake and Audrey Mae Snead Blake.
As a young teenager, Shirley worked hard for pocket change on the Lundale Farm in Oak Hill, the land his family once owned as some of Oak Hill’s first settlers. Shirley always gave credit to Mr. Herbert E. Jones for instilling the importance of managing his finances during these early years. Shirley was also influenced by his lifelong good friend, Charlie T. Jones, who Shirley attributed the quote, “ Always have younger friends, that way you have some”. Then, imagine a young 18 year old Shirley borrowing a quarter for a bus ticket so he could join the Marine Corps.
Shirley graduated from Collins High School in 1955, and went on to earn an Associate Degree from the University of Maryland. Shirley honorably served his country as a United States Marine, as well as a soldier in the United States Army. Shirley served 2 tours in Vietnam and retired from the service after 21 years, 2 months and 8 days. Shirley also retired from the National Park Service with 33 years of service, thus totaling 53 years, 6 months, and 17 days of service to his country. Shirley continued his dedication to public service by serving in the official capacity as Councilman for the Town of Thurmond.
Not all of Shirley’s early life experiences were pleasant. Shirley’s grandson wrote in a tribute, “… I honestly think he tried his absolute best to rewire his brain and push away the demons, and I think he did a damn good job.” We all agree. It's obvious Shirley passed along the very best of his wisdom and goodness to his family.
As a teenager, Shirley attended the Oak Hill Baptist Church where he sang in the Choir. And although Shirley loved everything about dogs, antique cars, intently following the stock market, an evening at the Cold Spot or stopping by the Oak Hill Wendy’s after a nice Sunday church service, he mostly loved his people. Most of all, he loved his wife of 21 years, Sharon, also a former National Park Service employee who retired from the United States Department of Interior in Washington D.C. Shirley and Sharon shared a home together along the New River.
During the past week, the family has been overwhelmed with stories about the man with endless generosity and his passion to help people who he knew just needed a small break in life, like he once did. Shirley held himself to the highest of standards, and he expected no less from the ones he loved.
He is preceded in death by his first wife and mother of his children, Shelby Gene Burgess Blake.
Those left to cherish his wonderful memory include his loving wife, Sharon Higginbotham Blake; son, Christopher Blake; daughter, Kimberly Blake Diamond (Larry); 4 grandchildren, Jonathan Diamond, Michael Harshbarger (Aaron), Saylem Blake, and Breya Blake; 2 great grandchildren, Cole and Reed Harshbarger; brother, Charles “Chuck ” Blake (Sally); a former special spouse, Janice Knepp; Danielle Crouch, mother of Christopher's Children; a niece, Jessica; and his 3 furry companions whom he loved dearly; Cricket, Gunny, and Sadie Mae. Shirley is also now reunited with his former furry companions; Trixie, Pooh Pooh, Pearl, as well as a duck named Orville. That’s another great story.
Shirley had so many different “Pods” of people he loved. A few of his special friends that will keep his spirit alive are Sonny Perry, Ronnie Ashmore, Barry and Leanne Massey, Dave Bragg, Brandon Shaw, and his extra special circle of friends of the Town of Thurmond. Shirley also loved the time he shared on Monday nights at the Beckley Vet Center, where he would gather along with his fellow veterans for what Shirley affectionately referred to as his Monday night “nut class”.
A memorial service will be held at 1:00 PM Saturday, April 29, 2023 at the Oak Hill Baptist Church at 613 Lundale Drive, Oak Hill WV, 25901, with Pastor Sam Blaylock and Pastor Shane Goins officiating. Visitation for friends will be from 11:00 am through 1:00 pm prior to the service at the church. The family would like to invite all his friends to join in a celebration of life at the Dunglen Shelter, Thurmond WV, 25936 following the service.
One of Shirley’s passions was to assist other Veterans obtain service benefits. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be considered to: VFW 7695, Attn: Mitch Carte, 3024 Sunday Road, Hico WV, 25854.
Shirley’s final life journey will conclude at Arlington National Cemetery, where he recently stood in awe, and said, “This is where I want to end up, maybe I’ll finally find peace.” Godspeed Shirley.
Online condolences may be sent a twww.tyreefuneralhome.com
Arrangements were made by Tyree Funeral Home, Oak Hill.