Wichita is a better place today, and veterans are more honored, because of Philip Blake.
Blake, who died Wednesday at age 90, was unofficial keeper of Wichita’s war and veterans memorials, which he correctly called a “priceless asset.”
Before Blake took notice in the 1990s, many of those memorials were neglected or in disrepair. For the next two decades, he pushed and prodded the community to give these memorials the care and respect they deserved.
He dedicated himself to the oversight and development of Veterans Memorial Park, including planning and raising money for the World War II memorial, among other new memorials. He also led restoration efforts of memorials in other local parks.
Blake was enthusiastic and determined, optimistic and tenacious, caring and concerned.
Blake made “certain veterans were never forgotten,” said Ted Ayres, who chairs World War II Memorial Inc., adding that “when no one else cared, he did.”
Blake wrote many letters to the editor and commentaries over the years. Some were about the memorials, while others touched on larger themes. His last commentary, which was published this past Memorial Day, noted that the United States was exceptional in how it quickly reconciled with many of its former military foes, often giving them a hand up after the war.
The Wichita City Council declared Sept. 13, 2011, to be “Philip Blake Day.” The proclamation said the best way for Wichitans to honor Blake’s legacy was by lending “physical and financial support for his efforts in keeping all veteran memorials alive for generations to come.”
That’s still true.
Blake will be missed, but his mission continues.
For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee