CHERRY VALLEY – Blake Dean Hayes, 66, author and historic preservationist at nationally known museums and sites, passed away peacefully at his home in Cherry Valley, on July 7, 2016, among family and friends.
He was born on March 28, 1950, to Gerald (Gerry) Hayes and Harriette Hayes, of Sidney. He graduated from Sidney High School (1968) and received a B.A. in history from SUNY Albany. He then studied preservation technology at St. Lawrence College in Brockville, Ont., and pursued a career in historical preservation, restoration and museum work.
Blake worked for Georgia Agrirama, Tifton, Ga., and The Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Mich. His many restoration projects included the Harvey Firestone Farm & House, the Buckminster Fuller Dymaxion House, a 1940s diner and gas station, the Wright Brothers’ Home and 1960s Motown Recording Studio. He was a co-creator of the Henry Ford Museum’s “American Automobile” and “Made in America” exhibits.
After returning to Cherry Valley, he gathered a number of museum professionals into The Cherry Valley Group. With CVG, he created interpretive and master plans, exhibits and staff training for historic sites, museums and non-profit organizations throughout the Northeast, South and Midwest.
Blake was active in preserving and promoting local historic sites and organizations. He served on numerous community boards and preservation organizations in Tifton, Ga., Ypsilanti, Mich., Greenbay, Wisc., and especially Cherry Valley. He received the prestigious John T. Schlebecker Award from the Association of Living History, Farm & Agricultural Museums, a professional organization in which he contributed many volunteer hours.
Blake was known for his humor, hospitality, good cooking, gardening, frugality, curmudgeonly tendencies and memorable ear stands, Cowardly Lion impersonations and Wizard of Oz reenactments.
His is survived by his loving wife Lorraine Bosma of Cherry Valley; daughter Rebecca Gross (Ryan) of Middleboro, Mass.; son Ashley Hayes of Chapel Hill, N.C.; stepsons Loren Sutton of Boston, Brian Sutton of Los Angeles, and Will Sutton of Cherry Valley; son in spirit Jared Fruth; granddaughters Ariella Blake Gross, Selah Elizabeth Gross and Elizabeth Ann Hayes; sister Dolores Breunig (Franz) of Sidney; brother Keith Hayes (Carol) of Prince George, Va. Blake also maintained close friendships with his former wife, Martha Camp, of Ecuador, and former wife and colleague, Mary Seelhorst, of Ypsilanti. He enjoyed his many nieces and nephews and his favorite cat, Kitty Ga-Ga.
Contributions in his memory may be sent to The Cherry Valley Community Facilities Corp. for old school maintenance at PO Box 66, Cherry Valley, NY
A party to celebrate Blake’s life will be at 4 p.m. Saturday, July 9, at his home at 23 Church St., Cherry Valley, NY. (“Normal Rules” apply.)