S. Prestley Blake, a Founder of Friendly’s, Dies at 106
Stewart Prestley Blake was born on November 26, 1914 in Jersey City, New Jersey, to Herbert Prestley Blake and Ethel (Stewart) Blake. He grew up in Springfield, where his father worked for the watch manufacturer Standard Electric Time Company. His mother was an automobile enthusiast who encouraged her sons to be fascinated by cars. When he was 16, he bought a Type T Ford using the revenue from a newspaper route. (Another brother, Hollis, died at the age of 2.)
Mr Blake attended Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut for a year before returning to Springfield to start his ice cream parlor with his brother Curtis.
The Blake brothers closed the shop during World War II to join the war effort. Mr. Blake worked for what is now Westinghouse Electric Corporation, locating elusive electronic equipment and shipping it to wartime manufacturers. (Curtis Blake served in the Army Air Forces in the UK.)
After selling Friendly in the 1970s, Mr Blake toured the world on sailboats and Concorde jets, adding to his collection of vintage cars, culminating in about two dozen Rolls-Royces. One of them, he wrote, appeared in the Liza Minnelli film “Tell Me You Love Me, Junie Moon” (1970), in which he appeared as a chauffeur as a cameo.
Mr. Blake celebrated his 100th birthday in 2014 with the construction of a modernized replica of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia plantation, in Somers, Connecticut. The mansion cost nearly $ 8 million to build and was auctioned for around $ 2.1 million in 2016.
His first two marriages to Della Deming and Setsu Matsukata ended in divorce.
Mr Blake died in a hospital in Stuart where he lived. In addition to his son, his wife Helen survived Blake; a sister, Betsy Melvin; one daughter, Nancy Yanakakis; several stepchildren; 16 grandchildren and stepchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.
“I started small, worked hard and succeeded beyond my wildest dreams,” said Mr. Blake at the end of his memoir. “I got out of the ice cream shop and sat nicely until I had to get off the couch and get back into the fray. This fight is over. I’m 96 and officially retired. May be.”