Andrew D. Blake, 62, of Moorestown, a special-education teacher for 25 years, died of gastric cancer Monday, Dec. 16, at Samaritan Inpatient Hospice Center at Virtua Memorial in Mount Holly.
Born in Teaneck, N.J., Mr. Blake studied special education at what is now Rowan University and soon after graduating started his first job, as a special-education teacher at Twin Hills Elementary School in Willingboro. He stayed in it for all 25 years of his career.
"He loved it there - loved the teachers, he loved all the principals he worked for, and got along great with the aides, the parents; and he had generations of kids," said his wife, Norma, who for a decade was state librarian of New Jersey.
Mr. Blake retired after the last academic year.
In all those years, she said, her husband never thought about leaving his special education students, normally third, fourth, and fifth graders, to become an administrator or to teach other subjects or students.
"He wanted to work with children, and he wanted to work with people with special needs," she said.
When their daughter, Catherine "Kay" Eljdid, joined the Ocean Township School District as a speech pathologist, Norma Blake said, Mr. Blake was thrilled.
"He was so proud of the fact that she is now working in the school system, and they talked schools all the time," Norma Blake said.
In 1978, the then-Norma Sheppard met Mr. Blake while hiking in the Ramapo Mountains as part of a club event.
"He was there to hike also, and we met on the hike, and he asked if he could come down and take me out for a date, which was really funny," she said. Geography complicated things. "I was living in Middlesex County. And for whatever reason, [I think] he was more comfortable . . . we drove all the way to Jersey City to see a movie.
"But his family said, 'He must really like you, he has never driven so far for a date,' " she said.
They married in 1980, and soon afterward moved into her mother's house in Moorestown.
That year, Mr. Blake joined a tradition of his wife's family, visiting Vermont every summer. The couple began traveling, Norma Blake said, joining a pair of friends for excursions to Italy, Ireland, Canada, and the Caribbean. But Vermont was always her husband's favorite, she said.
An avid reader and swimmer, Mr. Blake would "take piles of books" to Lake Champlain each year. Mr. Blake was a history buff and kept an eye on current events as an avid reader of newspapers, his wife said. "He could talk to anyone. He just knew a lot about a lot of different subjects," she said.
Mr. Blake was also a volunteer at the Moorestown Friends School Thrift Shop, spending a decade working the cash register, carrying bags, and doing whatever else needed doing at the place he called his "retail empire."
Even as stomach and bone cancer advanced quickly in just a few months, Mr. Blake always worried more about others than himself, Norma Blake said. "He was very stoic about it," she said.
Besides his wife and daughter, he is survived by a sister and a brother.
A viewing will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 19, at the Lewis Funeral Home, 78 E. Main St., Moorestown. A Funeral Mass will be said at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Dec. 20, at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, 42 W. Main St., Moorestown.
Contributions may be made to the charity of the donor's choice. Mr. Blake "said, 'Whatever is important to them is important to me,' " Norma Blake said.