MACOMB - Leona May Blake of Macomb died on Wednesday, May 1, 2013, at Wesley Village Healthcare in Macomb, Ill.
Leona was born at home May 7, 1915, in LeRoy, N.Y., to Philip and Ruth Sellers. She was their older daughter.
Her father died of pneumonia when she was 17, so she attended high school mornings and worked afternoons to help support her mother and her younger sister, Marion. She then did her nurse's training at Harlem Hospital in New York City, receiving her RN in 1939.
She married Arthur Gordon Blake on Aug. 31, 1940. He died Feb. 13, 2001, at age 87.
Arthur and Leona moved their family from Roxbury to Sudbury, Mass., in 1950 before Fair Housing groups became active. They were not successful finding a home using Realtors. Every house had coincidentally just sold when the Realtor met them. Eventually they found an individual family willing to sell to them.
Arthur's commute was close to an hour, much longer than they had hoped.
The Blake family became the first black family to move to Sudbury, and their two children were the first black children to attend and graduate from the public schools.
For many years Leona lived in the country with no car unless she drove Arthur to and from the train station in Lincoln, Mass., about 15 miles away.
In 1965, Leona and her husband and son left Sudbury and moved to Ridgewood, N.J.
After raising her two children, Leona took up watercolor painting and turned her hobby into a money making venture, selling her paintings at fairs all around New Jersey. She specialized in flowers, New England country scenes and scenes from the Caribbean.
Leona and Arthur had discovered the joys of travel and especially of cruising. They took dozens of cruises, most often to the Caribbean.
Arthur and Leona moved to Wesley Village in Macomb, Ill., in December 2000. Leona moved from her Wesley Village apartment to Wesley Village Healthcare at the end of 2008.
She is mourned by her sister, Marion Phillips of Scotsville, N.Y.; her two children, Pamella (Deckle) McLean of Macomb, Ill., and Gordon (Gail) Blake of Secaucus, N.J.; and her three grandchildren, Bradley (Miriam) McLean of Somerville, Mass., Dr. Matthew (Danielle) McLean of Ivyland, Pa., and Sarah (Arel) McLean Acosta of Kansas City, Mo. She has six great-grandchildren, Nia and Miles McLean of Massachusetts, Madelynn, Owen and Margot McLean of Pennsylvania, and Diego Acosta of Missouri.
Cremation rites have been accorded. A memorial service will be held in New York State at a later date. Burial will be in the Machpelah Cemetery in LeRoy, N.Y. There will be no visitation.
Dodsworth-Piper-Wallen Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Please sign the guest book at www.dodsworthfh.com.
Memorials may be made to Wesley Village Healthcare or McDonough District Hospital Hospice.
The family would like to thank the wonderful, caring Wesley Village Healthcare staff for the excellent and loving care Leona received during the final years of her life.