SALIDA, Colo. (KDVR) — Fanmail is not the sort of thing most 100-year-olds are used to receiving, but over the years, notes from total strangers have appeared in George Blake’s mailbox thanking him for his role in history 80 years ago.
“‘Dear Mr. Blake, thank you so much for taking the time today to read my letter,'” Blake said, as he read a recently arrived letter from out of state. “‘Thank you so much. It truly means a lot to me,'” the letter continued.
Blake was in the U.S. Army, stationed near Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 — the day America was thrust into World War II.
“We came out of the building, the sky was full of planes,” Blake said.
More than 2,400 Americans died in the attack, and you could say a little part of George died that day, too.
“I suddenly realized they were all kids —19, 20, you know,” Blake said, fighting back tears.
Blake is the last Pearl Harbor survivor in his small Colorado county and one of the last in the entire country. Which probably explains that fan mail and why he’s so beloved in his hometown of Salida.
“George is very unique. He’s a special dude,” said Dana Nachtrieb, a U.S. Marine veteran who picks up Blake for bingo every Thursday night.
Blake’s reputation was solidified even further a few months ago when he set out on a journey to serve once again. A friend who works with a local charity told him about a veteran in Britain who went on 100 walks to support health care workers during the pandemic. That friend had an idea.
“He said, ‘Would you get 100 walks in by your birthday, can you do that?’ I said, ‘I think so.’ So I did it,” Blake said.
For more than three months leading up to his 100th birthday, in the thin mountain air, 7,000 feet above sea level, Blake carried out his commitment.
“People would come by and say, ‘What walk is this?’ I’d say oh, 31st or 65th,” Blake joked.
And on his 100th birthday, he’s the one who gave a present: more than $10,000 raised through his walks to help a nonprofit serving families during the pandemic.
“I didn’t mind doing it. I was walking anyway and I was able,” Blake said.
From Pearl Harbor to his front patio, service is who George Blake is. No wonder everyone is such a big fan of his contribution to our country, both 80 years ago and today.
Blake had hoped to return to Hawaii in December for the 80th-anniversary commemoration at Pearl Harbor, but a minor health issue is keeping him home. However, he still takes walks every chance he gets.