Obituary of Wilfred Blais
Wilfred Arthur Blais died at his home on Shady Lane in Rutland Township, PA, on June 8, 2018, with Ellen, his wife of almost 50 years, beside him. He was born in Providence, RI, on October 27, 1928 to Arthur J. and Lucy E. Blais. He attended St. Theresa's Grammar School and LaSalle Academy in Providence. In 1946 before completing his last year at LaSalle, with his parents' permission, Wil joined the U.S. Army and served in Japan for two years. He was honorably discharged in May of 1948 and after completing his GED, received his high school degree from LaSalle in June of 1948.
Courtesy of the GI Bill, Wil continued his education at Boston University for two years and then finished his BA at Brown University, graduating in English with honors. After working briefly for a photograph-providing business in New York City, he continued his work in English at the University of Connecticut, earning an MA in 1956.
He began his teaching career at Pembroke, a small Native American college in Lumberton, NC, and continued it at the University of Georgia's English Department in Athens, GA, from 1957 to 1964. While there, he developed his life-long interest in art, becoming an MFA candidate and taking many courses in painting, drawing and photography.
In 1961, Wil married Nancy Barrett, and their daughter Robin was born in Athens. In 1964, Wil accepted a position in the English Department at then Mansfield State College in Mansfield, PA, and in 1965, his son Matthew was born.
In 1968, after a year of doctoral work in American Literature at the University of Pittsburgh, Wil's marriage to Nancy ended in divorce, and he met his future wife, Ellen Williams, who had accepted a position at Mansfield in the fall of 1968. In 1969, Wil and Ellen had a son, Andrew, and in 1973, his family moved into a house Wil designed and had built in the country between Mansfield and Roseville. He lived there for the remainder of his life. Although a city boy, Wil learned to hunt and thoroughly enjoyed living close to the woods, where he created a series of walking paths, made ponds, and built a "teahouse" beside one of them where friends came for skating parties in the winter and summer parties as well. He enjoyed all his years here, including his final spring, and never lost his sense of the beauty of this part of rural Pennsylvania. During retirement, Wil learned to play golf, and for many years he worked at "perfecting the golf swing" on the greens and in the roughs of Corey Creek Golf Club. Later, he and Ellen bought a house in St Augustine, FL, where they wintered from 1992 until 2012. There they enjoyed walking on the beach, playing duplicate bridge, and enjoying the restaurants and "attractions" of that town. They made new friends there whom they missed when they returned full time to Pennsylvania. Here Wil continued to enjoy playing duplicate bridge with Ellen. And he continued writing poetry and painting and drawing as he had during his working life.
Wil's younger brother Richard A. Blais died in 2016. Wil is survived by his wife Ellen (Williams); his daughter Robin Elizabeth Blais of Enumclaw, WA; his son Matthew Arthur (Lucretia Hatfield) of Portland, OR; his son Andrew Richard (Elana Borst) of West Orange, NJ; his grandson, Benjamin Hevner Blais of South Orange, NJ and his granddaughters, Violet Leah and Lucy Eden Blais, of West Orange, NJ; sisters-in-law Ruth Blais, of San Diego, Beth Williams (Kate Hyde), of Lindley, NY; and brothers-in-law Timothy Williams of Denver and John Williams (Jo-Anne Rankin) of Vernon, CT; nephew-in-law Todd Rankin Williams of Seattle; and nieces-in-law Claire Rankin Williams of Seattle, Helen Craig-Williams of Denver, Adrienne Craig-Williams (Chip Masters) of New York City, and O'rya Hyde-Keller (Tom Humphries) of Pawtucket, RI; cousins Sandra (Angelo) Marsella of Johnston, RI and Lee (Mary Lee) Chalifour of Port Charlotte, FL.
Wil was a quiet man, but in the silence of his absence, he will always be loved and remembered by his family and friends.
Wil's family would like to thank Dr. George Dy of Laurel Health Mansfield and Drs. Louis Dubois and Venugopal Thirumurti of the Guthrie Clinic for their care and concern for him in his final years. We also thank the Mansfield Ambulance team and Jacquelyn Buckheit of Buckheit's Funeral Chapel for their care and compassion the night of Wil's death.
There will be a Memorial Service for Wil at Buckheit Funeral Chapel and Crematory, Inc., 637 S. Main St., Mansfield, PA, on Thursday June 14, from 1PM to 3PM. Memorial donations may be given in Wil's name to the English Department at Mansfield University, 31 S. Academy St., Mansfield, PA. 16933. Checks should be made payable to Mansfield University. Please write "English Scholarships" in the memo section to guarantee proper accounting.
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