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Coach founded Lock Haven wrestling program

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By Jerry Vondas
Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
 

Hank Blake grew up in impoverished surroundings, but his faith, work ethic and athletic skills saw him through the difficult times, his wife, Nikki, said.

As the captain of Navy PT-375 during World War II, Mr. Blake transported officers of the Japanese Imperial Army from the Philippines and Borneo to Japan for the signing of the peace treaty ending the war, grateful that no more American boys would die on Pacific battlefields.

Hank Blake of Greensburg, former owner and operator of the Cloverleaf Golf Course in Delmont, died on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, at home. He was 92.

As a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Greensburg, Mr. Blake served as an elder, sang in the choir and taught Sunday school. He used his woodworking skills to create wooden crosses for mission churches in the Sudan.

“Hank was a pillar of the church,” said the Rev. Donna Havrisko, “a man whose hands and the work of his heart went into his faith. He also had a great sense of humor, someone whom you enjoyed being with.”

Mr. Blake graduated from Lock Haven Teachers College with a bachelor's degree in physical education. He founded the wrestling program at Lock Haven and served as coach. He earned a master's degree in physical education and guidance from Northwestern University.

He coached wrestling at Columbia University, the University of Chicago, Shady Side Academy and Greensburg Salem High School and became a member of the Lock Haven Wrestling Hall of Fame, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Hall of Fame and the Westmoreland Hall of Fame.

“Hank was a generous man, who had the ability to touch people's lives,” said his wife, whom he married in 1995. “At the time, I was also attending Westminster Presbyterian Church. I was going through a difficult time in my life and in deep depression. Hank took interest and saw me through.”

In addition to his wife, Nikki, Mr. Blake is survived by his daughters, Patricia Purnell of New Bern, N.C., and Nancy Davis of Richmond, Va.; sons, Michael T. Blake, William H. Blake and Robert S. Blake, all of Greensburg; stepchildren, Amanda Valentine of State College and Joseph Yahner of California; 17 grandchildren; and 17 great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his first wife, Betty Kepple Blake, in 1992, and a granddaughter, Melissa C. Blake.

Family will receive friends from 9:30 a.m. Friday in Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1120 Harvey Ave., Greensburg, until the funeral service at 11 a.m. The Rev. Havrisko will officiate.

Arrangements are being handled by Kepple-Graft Funeral Home in Greensburg.

Jerry Vondas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7823 or jvondas@tribweb.com.

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