The Rev. Charles Philip Blakney died at home on December 18, 2018. He is survived by his wife, the former Dorrie Alderman, sons Robert in Warrenton, VA., Richard in Weymouth, MA., daughters, Catherine Ann Kavassalis in Oakville, Ontario, Canada, and Carol Blakney-Alves in Muncie, IN, and step-son, Jonathan Wilhelmby. Rev. Blakney was Minister Emeritus of the First Congregational Church of South Hadley, where he served as pastor from 1970 until his formal retirement in 1993. Retiring with him at that time, were his two sidekicks, Phineas T. Loser and Dragon, the two hand-puppets that resided in a hatbox which made its appearance every Sunday with Blakney at the pulpit. They were fashioned by his late, first wife, the former Lorrayne P. Grimm. Following the onset of retirement, Blakney assumed abbreviated pastoral assignments in Orange, Shelburne, and Wyben, MA., as well as a semester in Hefei, China, where he and his wife Dorrie taught English.
Born in Sanford, ME., Blakney graduated from Williams College, received his B.D. Degree from Andover-Newton Theological Seminary, continuing his studies at Boston University and the Hartford Theological Seminary, from which he holds a Master's degree in linguistics, specializing in African languages. He was ordained at the the Congregational Church at Worcester and served in Saxtons River, VT. He then continued in the family missionary tradition that had actually begun 150 years earlier in the Williamstown Congregational Church his father, the Rev. Raymond Blakney, pastored. From 1955 to 1967, he served in Chikore and then in Salisbury, Rhodesia. One Sunday in 1967, shortly after delivering a sermon, Blakney was arrested by the local police. Blakney's trial made headlines on the front page of The New York Times. After his release by authorities and payment of a fine, Blakney decided it was time to remove his family from the political unrest in Rhodesia, which would soon become Zimbabwe. He accepted a post as Regional Secretary for Europe of the United Church Board for World Ministries in New York City. From there he moved into the ministerial post in South Hadley.
He loved birds, led bird walks, and illustrated brochures, newsletters and a posters with his feathered friends. His sermons were all reduced to essence in a poem in iambic pentameter, printed in the morning program. He expressed himself with an elegant turn of phrase and good humor. He considered himself an “authority” on cowboys. Before a stroke in 2005, which impaired his hearing, he played the piano every day and several other instruments.
The memorial service will be held Saturday, January 26, 2019 at 2:00pm at the First Congregational Church, 1 Church Street, South Hadley, MA 01075. A reception will follow in Fellowship Hall. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the mission fund at the church, earmarked for Zimbabwe. Arrangements are with the Curran-O’Brien Funeral Home.