Marty Blake, a retired executive secretary-treasurer of Portland-based Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 49 and a former international vice president, died March 11. He was 91.
Martell F. Blake, Sr. was born July 20, 1920, in Tacoma, Washington, to Nettie and Harold Blake. His father was a founding member of the Building Service Union Local 38, which later changed its name to SEIU.
After graduating from Stadium High School in Tacoma in 1937, Blake joined Local 38 and worked as a window-washer. He tried his hand at other jobs and was a member of the Lumber and Sawmill Workers Union and Boilermakers Union. He was working as a welder at Todd Shipyard in 1943 when he joined the U.S. Navy to serve in World War II.
That same year he married Clara Olsen.
After the war, Blake used his GI Bill benefits to learn the insurance business and open his own agency. In 1948, the Building Service Union hired him to serve as a trustee of Local 38. After completing that assignment in 1951, he moved to Vancouver, Washington, to work in a plywood mill in Portland. There, he was a member of the Woodworkers Union. He also worked part-time as a window washer through SEIU Local 49, where his uncle, Glenn, was secretary-treasurer.
After two years, Blake returned to Washington. He owned and operated unionized restaurants in Tacoma and Moses Lake.
He returned to Portland in 1959 to work for his uncle as a Local 49 business agent. When Glenn Blake retired in 1968, Marty was elected his successor. In 1970, he became a member of the SEIU international Executive Board and four years later was elected an international vice president, where he served with former national AFL-CIO president John Sweeney.
Sweeney spoke at Blake’s retirement dinner in Portland in 1983.
Blake served for about 30 years on the board of directors of the Union Labor Retirement Association, builder of Union Manor retirement apartment complexes in the Portland metro area.
After retiring in 1983, the Blakes moved into Westmoreland Union Manor in Southeast Portland.
Starting in 1997, Westmoreland Union Manor was the location for the Northwest Oregon Labor Council’s annual Labor Appreciation Night, and for many years Blake volunteered his cooking skills to prepare dinner for the more than 250 guests.
Blake was installed into the Northwest Oregon Labor Retirees Council’s Labor Hall of Fame in November 2000.
Blake was preceded in death by his wife, and son, Marty Jr. He is survived by three daughters, 12 grandchildren; and 18 great-grandchildren.