PETERBOROUGH-- Russell Hartsuff Blake, 86, of Greenfield, NH died in the early hours of Thursday, October 20, 2016, at Summerhill Assisted Living in Peterborough following a brief period of failing health.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts on June 9, 1930, the first child of Lester and Helen Blake (née Berry), Russell was raised in Medford Massachusetts. As a child, Russell was one of the last generations to see Civil War Veterans march in Armistice Day Parades and remembered watching the Hindenburg pass over the yard of his elementary school.
A lifelong lover of the arts, as a 12-year old, Russell ran a small movie theater called “The Garfield” out of the attic of his parent’s home and played cornet and trumpet in school bands. In 1948 he enlisted in the Navy and was a graduate of the U.S. Navy School of Music Washington D.C. Russell was a member of the Navy Band and marched in President Harry S. Truman’s inaugural parade in 1949. Russell went on to serve aboard the Aircraft Carrier USS Philippine Sea. With the outbreak of the Korean Conflict, his service was extended to a full 4 years. He attained the rank of Petty Officer 2ND Class and was a Korean Service Medal 3 Bronze Star recipient in addition to other commendations. One day, on a dare, Russell played a bebop inspired “jazzed-up” version of “Reveille" to wake the ship. Dressed down for his petulance by the 2nd in Command, he was called to the Captain’s quarters where, fearing another reprimand, he was instead commended, given extra rations and a request to: “play it like that every morning!”
Returning to Massachusetts after the service, Russell earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and advertising from Boston University in 1959. In the same year, he and his classmate and fellow audiophile, Bob Vogt of Needham, MA undertook the first successful simultaneous FM radio broadcast from two radio transmitters, WGBH & WBUR of Boston – making this the first time in history an FM broadcast could be heard in stereo. The experimental program, which required the prospective listener to tune two separate devices to the aforementioned FM bands was entitled “Dimensions in Sound”. In the following years Russell made countless professional recordings of live music throughout the country for Vogt’s record label, VQR. He went on to work for the Medford Mercury and the Quincy Patriot Ledger before being hired as an Advertising Account Executive for The Boston Globe in 1969, a position he would hold for the next 29 years, until his retirement in 1998. He met and married Shirley Feinberg, the proprietor of a Boston area music shop in 1960. The pair moved to Boston’s south shore to start a family before settling in Greenfield, New Hampshire in 1972. Russell commuted every day from Greenfield to his job at the Globe in Dorchester, Mass. for 26 of his 29 year tenure.
In addition to his musical abilities, Russell was an accomplished still photographer, having cut his teeth helping his father produce and edit 8mm family films during his youth. For a time, Russell worked for Bachrach Portrait Studio in Boston and also did commercial, medical and food photography. He won many 1st place awards in exhibitions and competitions. Particularly inspired by the land and seascapes of New England, some of Russell’s photographs were used as studies for paintings by artist friends like Stafford Good, William Meyerowitz, Walter Wilcox and William Hanley.
He leaves his wife of 56 years, Shirley; siblings Janet Freeman, Joyce McGill, Fred Blake, Bruce Blake and Leslie Stead; sons Jonathan Blake of Ripton, VT., Gregory Blake and wife Judy of Peterborough, David Blake and wife Carrie of Virginia, and daughter Jennifer Quackenbush and husband Tim of Peterborough; Grandchildren Seth Blake of South Pasadena, CA, Isaac and Elizabeth Blake, Elaina, and Elias Quackenbush all of Peterborough; as well as many friends and extended family members throughout the United States.
A warm and generous man with great curiosity and passion for life, Russell, or “Papa” as he was known to his children and grandchildren, will be fondly remembered for his sly sense of humor, entertaining nature, and his love of animals, music (especially opera), coffee, a fine cigar and conversation.
A celebration of his life is being planned.