We mourn the death of Blake Landor, loving husband, brother, uncle, cousin, friend and colleague. Even in his final days and hours, as he faced terminal illness, Blake displayed thoughtfulness, courage, curiosity and most of all, gratitude, qualities that contributed to him being loved by many.
Blake was the second child of Eleanor (Velk) and Ronald Landor. His early years were spent in California, in the Bay Area. Blake’s sister Talitha has a memory of being taken by her older brother to a local park and playing in a sandlot as he shot baskets on the court, during which time she somehow lost her precious new pair of bright red leather shoes. Nine-year-old Blake spent 45 minutes digging in that enormous sandlot until he found his little sister’s shoes–an early instance of Blake’s determination to accomplish tasks he set himself.
Blake’s love of books, intellectual inquiry, and classical languages began to be cultivated as an undergraduate at St. John’s College, a Great Books school he graduated from in 1969. Both he and his sister Amiel received their bachelor’s degrees from St. John’s and together they carried the unique and hard-earned moniker of being a ‘Johnnie’. Drawn to academic pursuits, Blake enrolled in graduate school at the University of Texas, in Austin, receiving a Master of Arts degree in Classics in 1972. He then undertook a doctoral program at the University of Toronto, and in 1980 received a PhD in Philosophy, completing and defending his dissertation on Aristotle.
It was in Toronto that Blake met his future wife, Evelyn (Lyn) Straka while they both worked on the Greek Index Project, where Lyn was supervisor. On their first date they sat outside in a park and read Plato’s “Timaeus”. Blake and Lyn were married in June 1980 and spent forty-two years of companionship together. Even in the last months of Blake’s life, he and Lyn would return to their love of classics and read Greek and Latin together.
In 1983, Blake received a Master of Library Science degree from Rutgers University. He held a number of teaching and librarian positions at universities in Toronto, New York, Illinois and Kentucky, and in 1990 he became the Classics, Philosophy, Religion Librarian at the University of Florida, Gainesville. Blake spent the next 26 years working at the University’s George A. Smathers Libraries, until his retirement in 2016. The field of library science changed greatly during his tenure with the advance of technology, and he adapted to changing trends in his field, and taught and mentored many. The widespread, deep affection for Blake among his colleagues was made evident at his surprise retirement party, where he was given gifts relating to his library disciplines of Classics, Philosophy and Religion, including a cookbook titled “The Philosopher’s Kitchen: recipes from Ancient Greece and Rome for the modern cook” and paid many tributes. One colleague called Blake “a person of peace and good cheer.” A peer in the field of philosophy said of Blake that “he exemplified the Stoic approach to life more than anyone else I have ever known. He improved me both as a scholar and as a human being.”
Blake had a rigorous intellect. In addition to Greek, he read in Latin, German, biblical Hebrew and French. He held his own in debate, and yet he was not dogmatic in his views, but was thoughtful in considering opinions opposed to his own and willing to change his mind if the strength of opposing arguments was compelling. He did not require adherence to his beliefs as a condition of kinship. His brother Barth recalls a fierce email exchange he and Blake had over a political matter, the intensity increasing with each message, while at the end of every email he made sure to sign off, “Love, Blake”.
If Blake lived a life dedicated to the intellect, he was also a person of deep feeling. He was a loving presence in his family’s life over many decades, eager to make connections on a walk, over a game of chess, or during a meal, and quick to enthuse over the achievements of younger generations in the family. Blake’s pursuit of truth, and his persistent truthfulness, were not academic preoccupations but essential attributes of his honorable character. Jewish by heritage, Blake came to feel a strong bond with Israel, and studied the Jewish Bible in its original Hebrew.
Blake’s siblings cherish memories of holidays together, sharing good food, long walks, rousing debates, and competitive games of Charades. His sister Regina remembers his visits to their hometown in Berea, Ohio and the way Blake would swoop her up and take her for a ride on his shoulders, his tall, lean frame reaching up to the branches of the trees. From her earliest age, Blake made her feel tall and important. His sister Amiel recalls spirited conversations between them. Blake always took pleasure and generous awe in his youngest sister’s adventures and positive perspective. On her 50th birthday he blessed her deeply by referring to her as ‘a female Odysseus.’
Blake’s appreciation for humor ran deep, and his laugh rang loud and true. His family grew to depend on his compassion and thoughtful advice and presence in their lives.
He is predeceased by his mother Eleanor and father Ronald, as well as his older sister Raissa. He is survived by his wife Lyn Straka, sisters Talitha Sanders (Ellen Martin), Regina Landor (Billy Woodward) and Amiel Landor, brother Barth Landor (Heather Antti), nieces Mikalina Rabinsky, Shoshana Sanders, Rebecca Landor, Sarah Munoz, and Cecilia Landor, and nephews Lyd Landor, Ethan Woodward and Gabriel Woodward.
Anyone wishing to honor Blake’s memory with a donation may contribute to St. John’s College (campuses in Santa Fe and Annapolis), or to Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery, where Blake was laid to rest surrounded by natural beauty and loving family and friends.