Robert “Bob” Blakeley — remembering one of St. Paul’s greatest athletes

MSR ObitRobert “Bob” Blakeley, one of the greatest athletes in St. Paul and St. Paul City Conference history passed away October 30.

“I saw him in action — he was the best I had ever seen in our conference,” wrote longtime St. Paul youth coach Billy Peterson in an email. “I was very fortunate to know Bob, but better yet, I got the great privilege to see him play in the fall of 1952. I was in the eighth grade at Marshall and Bob was a 10th grader and was a starter on Marshall’s football team. Bob was a bruising running back.”

Blakeley left Marshall when it became a junior high and attended St. Paul Central.  It was there where he became legendary. “He was an absolute stud” in his senior year, adds Peterson.  “Back then there were no state tournaments for football and only one class.  The suburbs of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro area were just beginning to develop.  The big high school final game of the year was the Twin City Championship play at Memorial Stadium — the winner was considered the best in the state.”

In the fall of 1954, “Central was the St. Paul City Conference winner and Washburn was the Minneapolis Conference winner,” recalls Peterson. “Washburn was huge and looked like a major college team. Central was a good-sized team but no comparison in size to Washburn, and apparently was given little chance to survive the game!”

But Central took the little chance given to them and defeated the Minneapolis champs 27-7. Blakeley scored all his team points in the process.

Blakeley was also chosen as the school’s top athlete, as well as Homecoming King in 1954.

Then Blakeley took his exploits to the track. He set two records in the conference meet in the spring of 1954 in the shot put and discus, and was a member of Central’s winning 880 relay.   The St. Paul City Conference website shows his 1955 record in the discus still stands to this day.

“I can verify that discus record and measurement because I was working at the track meet on the official’s crew that day and I marked the spot and taped the measurement,” noted Peterson.

After graduation, Blakeley attended the University of Minnesota where he played track and football. After serving two stints in the U.S. Army, where he also played football, he played pro football both with the Denver Broncos and the Canadian Football League before he forged a non-athletic career in sales and construction.

Years later, Bob’s son Robert Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps at Central with a record-setting mark in the 100 in 1978, making them the only father and son still in the city’s record book. The junior Blakeley and his wife Wanda are among those the elder Blakeley left behind, including a sister-in-law, two nephews, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, many friends and relatives.

A memorial service is scheduled for Wednesday November 9, at 12 noon at Brooks Funeral Home, 862 Concordia Avenue, St. Paul, following a gathering of family and friends at 11 am at Brooks. His interment was at Fort Snelling.

Sadly, this reporter never got to know Bob Blakeley but our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.  He was one of our community’s best as well as one of our greatest, whose accomplishments must be brought out and highlighted for all of us to fully recognize and remember.

“I was very fortunate to know Bob,” said Peterson.

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.