POLAND, Ohio (MyValleyTributes) – Russell L. Blake, 99, formerly of Poland, passed away on Monday, January 2, 2023 at Windsor Medical Center, North Canton. 

He was born in Moundsville, West Virginia, on May 8, 1923, the son of Russell R. and Estella Blake.

After graduation from Moundsville High School in 1941, Russell attended Potomac State University. While in college, he followed a lifelong love of music and started a dance band that played in the Tri-state area. 

Russell enlisted in the U.S. Army in April, 1943. He proudly served in the 539th Amphibian Tractor Battalion during World War II, spending over one year in the Philippine Islands and elsewhere in the Pacific theater. 

While on a brief leave, Russell married Agnes E. Richmond, on June 22, 1944. She had been a fellow student at Potomac State and the pianist in his band. 

After his honorable discharge, Russell returned to college and graduated from West Virginia University with a degree in business. 

He was hired in a management training program by the Heinz Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While there he took courses toward a Master’s Degree in Business at the University of Pittsburgh.

In 1950, Russell was employed by Nationwide Insurance in Youngstown. He worked as an adjuster and then as a claims manager for Nationwide until 1968. He then started his own insurance agency in Poland working until his retirement in 1989.

Raising his family in Poland from 1950, Russell was a devoted husband, father and friend and an avid supporter of all family activities and athletic events. He believed in public service and enjoyed a long tenure in Poland Village government, serving on the Village Council for 17 years and then six years as Mayor from 1974 to 1980. While Mayor, Poland started its joint Recreation Program and implemented many of the zoning changes designed to preserve the Village’s history. One of his greatest strengths was the ability to bring differing groups together to resolve disputes for the greater good of the community. Russell also served as President of the Poland Boosters Club and was a member of the Kiwanis, Masons and the American Legion. 

Russell was an active member of the Poland United Methodist Church, serving on the Administrative Board and other committees, as well as being a Committee Member for Troop 2 of the Boy Scouts.   

For recreation, he played trumpet in a local dance band and he and Aggie belonged to the Poland Carnival Dance Club for many years. Often the life of the party, he was known for his quick wit.  He and Aggie led an active social life with many lifelong friends and neighbors. Later in life, he particularly enjoyed his nieces and eventually his grandchildren who were often weeklong guests at their home.

Russell will be deeply missed by his devoted wife of 78 years, Agnes; his two sons, Attorney James R. (Libby) Blake of North Canton and David L. Blake of Alpharetta, Georgia and his grandchildren, Dr. Brian J. (Angela) Blake of North Canton, Erin Blake (Peter) Elefante of Hingham, Massachusetts, Andrew W. (Erica) Blake of Winthrop, Massachusetts and Alex J. Blake of Alpharetta, Georgia.  He also leaves five great-grandsons, Joshua and Johnathon Blake and William, Blake and Christopher Elefante; brother-in-law, William Richmond (Judy) of Lonaconing, Maryland and beloved nieces and nephews. 

He was preceded in death by his sister and brother-in-law, Lois and Roger Crosby.

Russell will be interred at Poland Riverside Cemetery and a Celebration of Life service will be held at a future time. 

Memorial tributes may be made to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF):  macular.org or the Poland Schools Foundation for Education Excellence.

Please visit www.beckerobits.com to send condolences and share online memories with Russell’s family.  Arrangements are being handled by Cunningham-Becker Funeral Home, 270 N. Main Street in Poland. 

A television tribute will air Monday, January 9 at the following approximate times: 6:47 a.m. on WYTV, 9:43 a.m. on WKBN, 10:58 a.m. on FOX and 8:12 p.m. on MyYTV. Video will be posted here the day of airing.