AMSTERDAM —William “Bill” Blake Jr. passed away on Saturday, January 21, 2023, following a recent stroke. He was 83.
Bill was born in West Burke, VT on May 7, 1939. From an early age, he loved to fish and hunt. He dreamed he’d grow up to be like singing cowboy Gene Autry or Brooklyn Dodgers first baseman Gil Hodges. Although he never mastered yodeling, he did hit over .400 playing first base in high school. But his ambitions soon changed the first time he saw his father’s harness horse race in Montreal. The thrill he felt watching that horse go from last to first over the course of a mile was like watching the Dodgers beat the Yankees in 1955, but it happened in 2 ½ minutes! He couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be sitting behind that horse, guiding it to victory. Over the span of 50+ years, Bill got to experience that feeling himself repeatedly, having driven and trained countless horses into the Winner’s Circle.
After serving his country in the Army, Saratoga Harness became Bill’s home once he met Barbara LaRouech, who groomed horses for her father. The two were married in 1966 and raised four daughters as they worked alongside each other with the horses until her passing in 2000. Having already been inducted into the Saratoga Hall of Fame in 2006, glaucoma forced Bill to retire in 2016. Otherwise, he would’ve still been training horses. That’s who he was. Hard-working. Humble. Dependable. He’d give you the shirt off his back in the middle of winter and say he was hot anyway. To his family, he was their anchor. No matter how turbulent the sea got, he kept things grounded. He was as steady and as decent a man as you will ever find, and he will be deeply missed.
Besides his wife, Barbara, Bill is predeceased by his father and mother, William and Lila Blake; his brothers Bernard, Clifton and Wendell; his mother and father-in-law, Elizabeth and Clyde Revier, and his father-in-law Fred LaRouech.
Bill is survived by his daughter and son-in-law, Darcy and Steven Alheim of Moreau, daughters Laury Blake and Shelley Blake of Saratoga, daughter and son-in-law Billie and Anthony DeLuca of Greenwich; sisters Wilma Fournier and Marylyn Blake of VT, sister-in-law and brother-in-law Carol and Edward McNeil of Ft. Edward, brother-in-law Fred LaRouech of IL; grandchildren Rachael and Kenneth Ricks, Nicole and Amanda Malfer-Compton, Tyler Hendrickson, Brennan DeBates and Rylee DeLuca, five great-grandchildren and many beloved nieces and nephews.
Relatives and friends are invited to call from 3-5 p.m. on Monday, January 30, 2023 with Military Honors bestowed at 4:45 p.m. at the William J. Burke & Sons/Bussing & Cunniff Funeral Homes, 628 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. A Celebration of Life will be held on May 7, 2023. Donations can be made to the Alzheimer’s Association or The Glens Falls Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Online remembrances may be made at burkefuneralhome.com