Irene 'Renee' Blake, 59, took up crusade against drugs after son died of overdose

August 11, 1998|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Irene "Renee" Blake's crusade began soon after her eldest son died of a drug overdose on Good Friday in 1995 -- and for the next three years she preached almost weekly on the perils of drugs and alcohol in Baltimore County schools, youth centers and the courthouse.

"She always stressed that everyone has to be responsible for their decisions and that drugs rob a person of their dreams," said her husband, William K. Blake, who joined her in speaking to youths. "She felt a deep interest in what she said."

Mrs. Blake, 59, described as a woman of endless energy, died Saturday of cancer at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium.

Her efforts to reach young people were a way to ease the pain of the loss of her son. She didn't consider herself an expert on drug abuse, but told haunting tales of the life she and her husband led in their Cockeysville apartment with a son who used drugs from the time he was in middle school until he died at age 28.

She'd relate stories of all-night partying and staying in bed all day, she'd talk of his screaming, profanity-laced bouts, of wrecked cars, and of the sadness of his unfulfilled potential.

"She spoke to groups of how he [her son] terrorized us, the effect it had on our son," Mr. Blake said. "She spoke of how he lied to us, he stole from us, of how he was arrested a number of times."

Mrs. Blake recalled in an article for The Sun last year, "I slept with my pocketbook strap wrapped around my ankle."

She routinely spoke at the courthouse to youngsters from high schools across the county who were part of the Live Your Dreams program. At her side during many of her presentations was a poster-size picture of her son. She ended many of her speeches by saying, "I accept hugs."

"Some kids would show indifference, but most would benefit from it," said Irma Stein, a program official. "But either way, all of them would listen."

A native of Baltimore County, the former Irene Schraml graduated from Towson High School in the mid-1950s and received an associate arts degree as a medical secretary in the late 1950s.

She married Mr. Blake in 1961 and worked several jobs as a secretary before retiring last year.

In 1992, Mrs. Blake co-founded the North Central Republican Club, a Towson-area political organization, and with her husband was active with Drugs and Violence Committee of the United Methodist Church, Baltimore/Washington Conference.

She was a member and former Sunday school teacher at Epworth United Methodist Church, Warren and Ridgeland roads in Cockeysville, where services are scheduled for 11 a.m. tomorrow.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by a son, Michael Blake, of Phoenix, Ariz.; and two sisters, Audrey L. Holmes, of Rochester, N.Y., and Joanne Dean of Baltimore.

Donations may be made in Mrs. Blake's name to the Stella Maris Hospice Care Unit, 2300 Dulaney Valley Road, Timonium 21093.

Pub date: 8/11/98

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