Saturday, October 6, 2007

Susan Blake, 54, Amityville singer, activist

New York Newsday, October 5, 2007
by Carl McGowan

Susan Blake, a singer and activist considered by some the heart and soul of the Long Island peace and justice community, died Tuesday after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 54.

Blake, of Amityville, died at a friend's house in the Westchester County town of Goldens Bridge, said her sister, Nancy Jane Blake, of Peekskill.

For more than 30 years, Blake fought the Shoreham nuclear power plant and protested wars from Vietnam to Iraq through the Amityville activist group PeaceSmiths. Blake organized coffeehouse concerts and discussion forums on topics such as environmental issues and affordable housing.

"Susan has been one of those people who have steadfastly kept the focus on peace and justice issues on Long Island," said Catherine Green, of Sayville, a friend of Blake's since both demonstrated against the opening of Shoreham in the 1970s and 1980s.

"She was persistent and even dogged in trying to move forward a truly compassionate and just approach to things. She was inspiring, she was funny, she could be irascible....It's such a loss for the community."

Blake worked with other activist groups to organize peace vigils and demonstrations outside of congressional offices on Long Island and in New York City, said Dennis Urlaub, of Patchogue, co-chairman of the South Country Peace Group in Bellport.

Her protests often were set to music as she sang at rallies.

"She was the kind of person who swept you along with her enthusiasm, very into music and theater and dance and always planning some kind of an event that combined all of these things into one," said Cindy Rosenbaum, of Goldens Bridge, who befriended Blake when they attended the University of Rochester. "For her, everything was connected: the politics, the art. Everything was an opportunity to further her ideals."

Blake even protested her illness, singing in a show that poked fun at breast cancer. She rejected chemotherapy and radiation, opting instead for holistic medicine treatments.

"Susan, more than anyone I have ever known, tried to live her life consistently with her values," said Green, spokeswoman for Islip Supervisor Phil Nolan.

Blake learned activism while growing up in Wantagh. Legend has it that Blake and her mother, Betty Jane Blake, who died in 2005, chained themselves to a tree to block development of a housing project.

"I can't attest to that, but it sounds very likely," Nancy Blake said. "We were brought up to be citizens of the world and taught that you need to take some responsibility for taking care of this world."

Funeral arrangements and plans for a memorial service were incomplete yesterday.

Copyright © 2007, Newsday Inc.

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