SEASIDE – It was a time for laughter, hoots and hollers and even some tears for Mary Blake May 6 during a public reception, dinner and roast honoring Blake as she prepares to retire as general manager of the Sunset Empire Parks and Recreation District’s general manager.

Blake has held the position for the past 28 years.

During the dinner, about 300 guests had a chance to hear about Blake’s accomplishments as master of ceremonies and Seaside City Councilor Jay Barber outlined Blake’s career.

“Mary Blake doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘no,”’ said Barber.

He told the audience that Blake has grown the district’s budget from $100,000 to $2 million, preserved the wisdom of seniors with the establishment of the Bob Chisholm Community Center, encouraged youth with development of the skatepark and youth center, led a $1 million improvement and expansion of Sunset Pool, was instrumental in helping develop the Seaside Library and the redevelopment of the Broadway Park Fields.

During the ceremony Blake was seated in the front of the audience dressed in the one-piece body suit decorated with planets of the universe that’s she’s worn at various public events.

Mayor Don Larson give Blake a framed proclamation naming May 6 as Mary Blake Day and a Mayor’s Award for her contributions to the community.

“Her involvement in our community has been with every person,” Larson said. “She’s taught kids to live like adults. She’s just done so much for Seaside.”

Mike Marshall, Sunset Empire Parks and Recreation District’s human resources manager, said a former Signal editor referred to Blake as an explanation mark.

“That describes Mary,” Marshall said. “She’s taught us excitement, energy and to always push forward. She has been the best boss and the best mentor.”

Former Seaside City Manager Larry Lehman said Blake has always had a cooperative attitude.

“With Mary it was always a matter of what can we do to make things better,” Lehman said. “She was a real pleasure to work with and she never said no.”

Doug Dougherty, Seaside School District Superintendent, called Blake a community connector.

“Mary has been instrumental in helping bring people together and helping people accomplish a lot of things in our community,” said Doug Dougherty, Seaside School District Superintendent. “Those accomplishments include everything from the Youth Center, to remodeling Sunset Pool, to the community gardens and to helping with Broadway Park.”

Mike Hinton, Sunset Parks and Recreation District Board chair, said Blake’s legacy is the willingness to work with the community.

“And all the different partners we have to make these major accomplishments happen,” said Hinton. “Mary has really been a tireless leader.”

Stubby Lyons, Seaside City Councilor and former Seaside High School football coach, applauded Blake for her work on the Broadway Park Field.

“The new field would not be there had it not been for Mary Blake,” Lyons said. “She has been a very positive influence on this community in many ways.”

Lyons pointed out that Blake, as the general manager of the SEPRD, was the first women director of a special district in Oregon and the first woman to be inducted into the Seaside Rotary Club.

“That’s the key,” Lyons said. “Mary has been involved in everything and everything that she did was successful.”

Blake, moved to tears by the recognition, said the day was overwhelming for her.

“My breath was taken away,” she said. “Being able to see and talk, laugh and hoot with these people about all that we have accomplished is moving, but to also talk with people that were homeless and who were able to use the showers at the pool and our scholarship program was a pleasure.”

Before the events at the Convention Center, Blake was surprised to see signs placed along Broadway in her honor saying, ‘Thank You Mary’ and ‘Mary, it’s your day’ and ‘Mary, we love you.’

“I was buzzing around getting ready for this event and all of a sudden I see all these signs placed like the old Burma Shave advertising signs along Broadway,” she said. “The signs were messages from the heart.”

Jan Barber, a member of the committee of friends established to put together the Mary Blake Day events, said the signs for Blake were a special treat.

“We have tried to express Mary’s spirit through the signs, the series of photographs we took all over town at places that Mary has influenced, and through this celebration,” Barber said. “That’s why it is so cheerful and so positive.”

The photographs and messages written for Blake at the public reception before the dinner will be part of a scrapbook given to Blake by the committee.

Blake will retire in June as general manager of the Sunset Empire Parks and Recreation District.

She told the Signal in late April that she will remain active in this community.

“But first I am going to catch my breath,” she said. “Just be in the moment. It is something I am really looking forward to. People are concerned that I might flunk retirement, but I tell them I will base my retirement on reflection, spiritual growth, take stock and count my blessings.”

© 2012 Seaside Signal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.




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