Obituary of John Alexander Blake
The inveterate explorer has today set off on his final adventure after finally succumbing to a challenge he could not beat.
John’s adventurous spirit showed up very early in his life when he signed on as a crew member on Loren Upton's 1977 Roads End to Roads End motor vehicle crossing of the Darien Gap between Panama and Columbia. This was only the 4th time this route had been successfully navigated by motor vehicle. To this date only two other motor vehicle expeditions (other than motorcycle) have successfully completed this crossing. Stories include 44 days to cover 60 miles, bushwhacking with machetes through the jungles, constant winching the jeeps out of the mud and rough terrain, and some time spent in a Columbian jail until bribery payment money could be arranged.
John quickly became the expeditions winch operations expert and won high praise from the expedition leader for his contributions to the success of the expedition. John also received a letter of recognition from the Prime Minister (Canada) for his efforts.
John’s next great adventure was a backpacking/hiking trip into Nepal and the Himalayas, long before this type of trip became a “thing to do.” More great stories but no pictures. The best story was having to wire home for more money after being robbed of his cash by specially trained monkeys. (Well that’s his story and he’s sticking to it, but apparently that was a thing to do for the local bandits.)
Life, three children, and a career with CN Rail intervened.
John’s career was unfortunately cut short by the debilitating effects of severe neuropathy which resulted in substantial loss of use of his legs and hands and partial paralysis of his facial muscles.
The adventures had to become a little bit less challenging after this, but he did manage a trip up the Dempster Highway in the Yukon and an Arctic Circle Crossing with his children.
Disability and a forced early retirement didn’t slow John down, he simply adapted and shifted gears in to new endeavours. He became “The Best Bin Diver EVER” and has the hat to prove it. Too many stories of his found treasures to repeat here, but just ask any of his friends and there are as many stories as there are friends that he shared these finds with. (One of these finds ended up being worth $7,500.00 and earned him the right to proudly wear the hat)
Illness just kept piling up on John and finally a double case of the dreaded “C” cancer was more than he could handle.
Right up to the end John retained his sense of optimism and a brilliant sense of humour and storytelling. All of his nursing and caretakers described him as a “sweetheart.”
Those who took the time to get past his sometimes gruff exterior know exactly why he earned that description.
Rest in peace, little brother and friend ……..