In Memoriam: John B. Blake, NPCA Board Member
By Patricia Sullivan on Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013
National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) Board Member, advocate for the quality control of U.S. grain and commodity exports, and big-hearted Texan, John B. Blake, died of cancer Sept. 18 of this year. He was an Agricultural Extension Volunteer with the Peace Corps in the Ministry of Agriculture/Kapisa Province, Afghanistan from 1973-1975 and he dedicated his entire life to serving his community.
Blake began his career in the agricultural industry as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) in Afghanistan. He introduced two wheat varietals to the country, Mexipak and Larma Rojo, which were developed by Nobel Prize winner Norman Borlague as part of the “Green Revolution.” When his wife, Denise Walls Blake, who he met during Peace Corps training in Brazil, died of a tragic accident in Afghanistan, he returned to his alma-mater of Texas A&M University to further his education.
Blake’s pursuit of education was for an inaugural master’s degree program for international service, initiated by the Peace Corps and the Norman Borlague Institute for International Agriculture. He also taught science in Houston while he waited to be appointed to the Federal Grain Inspection Service (USDA) where he was an Agricultural Commodity Grader (grain) since 1977 in Beaumont, Texas.
In addition to his far-reaching educational and agricultural career achievements, Blake has centered his life around helping others. As a member of Friends of Afghanistan, he donated to FOA-funded Afghan women’s charities. He also donated Internet media equipment to use in community outreach and PCV recruitment efforts in the Houston area as a member of the Gulf Coast Council of RPCVs.
A natural leader, Blake was a founding member of the Texas 4-H Alumni Association, and he mentored many potential Peace Corps Volunteers. One close, friend, Brian Hillin, vouches for Blake’s kind and supportive spirit. Hillin met Blake when he was 18-years-old, and he stayed in Blake’s home rent-free so that he could work full-time and go to school. Hillin continues to be devoted to Blake, taking care of his family and the details of the memorial service that occurred on Sept. 28.
In addition, Blake had a passion for raising both roses and Scottish terriers, and he enjoyed success in showing both.
Blake will be fondly remembered for his interesting conversation topics during NPCA Board meetings, his work in agriculture, his charitable donations, and the support he gave to those around him.
Thank you to Pat Wand for her assistance with this blog post.