Nevada County lacrosse advocate leaves lasting legacy
College: Swarthmore College (1950-53)
Four-time lacrosse All-American
Four-time Pennsylvania-Delaware League Champion
Co-Captain for North in 1953 North-South Game
National Lacrosse Hall of Fame (1971)
Swarthmore College Hall of Fame (2012)
Several years ago, Terry Baxter and his eighth-grade lacrosse team were in the midst of a championship game in Danville.
Baxter’s team was superior in athleticism, but the team it was facing was far more experienced.
Right out of the gate, Baxter’s squad fell behind by four points. From the background, Baxter heard a gentle voice that would bridge that experience gap.
“Coach, a time-out might be nice here,” the voice advised.
Baxter called a time- out, regrouped his team and went on to win that championship.
The voice was that of Avery Blake, a National Lacrosse Hall of Famer and local youth lacrosse advocate.
“His history and knowledge of the game was crucial,” Baxter said. “He was always super-supportive. I knew nothing of the sport, and through his encouragement, I was able to find what videos to watch and books to read.”
The lacrosse community recently lost one of its greatest players, supporters and ambassadors when Blake died Sept. 19 at the age of 81. He leaves a legacy that spans from coast to coast and will carry on for years to come.
“Lacrosse for him was a family thing,” Blake’s stepson, Steve DeHart, said. “He truly believed in the game and what the game could teach kids about life. We talk about team sports and what it can do for kids, and Dad lived that. Not only what it can do for them as people in society, but how it could benefit them in other sports.”
In the wake of Blake’s passing, the Avery Blake Memorial Scholarship Fund has been formed to help finance any young player who wishes to play lacrosse.
“Dad was all about putting a lacrosse stick in any kid’s hand that wanted it.” DeHart said. “That’s why we started the scholarship fund. He was all about that. He was all about teaching any kid that wanted to play.”
Blake brought his lacrosse prowess and knowledge with him to California and was instrumental in building the local Gold Country Stampede lacrosse program into what it is today.
“He did everything he could to promote youth lacrosse,” Stampede president Bruce McDowell said. “The energy he brought to the club, and constant focus on bringing kids in is something we will try to follow.”
Blake, who was a four-time lacrosse All-American at Swarthmore College from 1950-53, was coached by his Hall of Fame father, Avery Blake Sr.
While at Swarthmore, Blake led his team to four straight Pennsylvania-Delaware League Championships, scoring goals in all but two games during that span. Blake was also a co-captain of the North in the 1953 North-South Game.
After graduating with a degree in engineering and serving in the U.S. Navy, Blake played professionally for the Swarthmore Indians, Philadelphia Lacrosse Club, Maryland Lacrosse Club and the San Marino (California) Lacrosse Club. He would later start and coach a lacrosse club at Santa Clara University.
Blake was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1979, and was one of the 12 inaugural inductees for the Swarthmore College Hall of Fame.
His father was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1961. They are the only father-son duo in the Hall of Fame.
It was that invaluable experience and passion that Blake brought to the Gold Country Stampede.
“He wanted to put a stick in every kid’s hand,” McDowell said. “There is a lot of things about how we run the club that all goes back to Avery and the model he set. He was always three ideas ahead of me. I was always trying to catch up to him and never could.”
McDowell, DeHart and Baxter all pointed to Blake’s passion for the sport as to what made him so good at marketing it locally.
“His bottom line was the stronger the club, the better it was for the kids.” McDowell said. “He was one of the most relentlessly positive people I ever met. Right up until the end, he had some ideas about the club.”
The club honors its best male and female players each year with the Avery Blake Award.
Lacrosse was one of Blake’s many loves, among them boating, but none rivaled the love he had for his wife, Judy Blake.
“It was literally love at first sight, and he would say the same thing,” Judy said. “We were friends, lovers, we were everything to each other and we did everything together. To grow old with someone you love is the most special thing in the world.”
Blake and Judy were married in 1979, both taking on their second marriage and both already having two sons.
Blake is survived by sons Brad Blake, a developer, and Geoffrey Blake, an actor and producer; and stepsons Steve DeHart, a local athletic trainer, and Greg DeHart, a documentary filmmaker.
The Blakes bounced from the Los Angeles area to San Carlos, where they got in on the ground floor of the Silicon Valley boom. Then they made a move to Florida before settling in Lake Wildwood.
“My mom kind of softened him up,” Steve DeHart said. “Dad kind of changed. He was this hard-core sales guy, then he met my mom, who was a pretty high-level exec herself, and they just meshed.”
Blake and Judy would grow old together, traveling and embracing each other’s passions — his being lacrosse and hers being the theater.
“He would sit for hours at a play, and I would sit for hours at lacrosse games,” Judy said.
“We respected each other’s interests and didn’t compete in any way. It was two souls that got together and it worked.”
Blake was profoundly proud of his children and grandchildren and often could be spotted at his granddaughter’s, Sammy DeHart, basketball games, rooting her on and harassing referees.
Blake’s ashes will be scattered in Marina del Rey near where he taught Judy to sail while courting her, Judy said.
If any lessons are to be taken from Blake’s life, of which there are many, Judy said it would be his passion for life.
“Be passionate about your life choices,” she said. “All his relationships, he was passionate about them and did something about them.”
A service for Blake will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the home of Chris Owens’ ‘TerraSol,’ 13620 Bodie Ridge Road, Nevada City. For more information on the event, contact Steve DeHart at 530-559-4368.
For more information on the Avery Blake Memorial Scholarship Fund or to donate, visit http://www.gcstampede.com.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4232.
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