The community of Sylvan Lake is mourning the passing of a former town councillor and mayor who touched many hearts during her civic service. Colleeyne Patricia (Pat) Blakely passed away peacefully surrounded by family on March 11 after a brief illness.
To show their sadness and in honour of her memory, the town lowered their flags at the Municipal Government Building on March 16.
“Sylvan Lake is better today because of people like Colleeyne Patricia Blakely,” stated the town. Blakely served on the Sylvan Lake town council from 1974 until 1980, when she became the mayor until 1983.
Born in Manville and having studied in Calgary, Blakely lived in central Alberta most of her life. She loved riding her pony as a child.
Blakely attained her teaching certificate from Calgary’s Normal School and worked in three central Alberta schools.
After over 25 moves to accommodate her husband’s work in the oilfield industry, Blakely found her forever home in Sylvan Lake in 1960. Following the passing of her husband in 1968, during a time when it was uncommon to be a single mother, Blakely raised three daughters — Shauna, Shelley, and Kim — while also running the Embee Motel for 17 years.
Blakely served as Sylvan Lake’s first school trustee, a position she held for 30 years.
Blakely’s granddaughter Kyla Stack remembers her grandmother as always teaching in some way.
“Grandma was always a teacher; any time I spent with her, she was always showing me how to do something, cook something, play something. She was always busy, but was happy to bring me along for the ride and show me how to be a part of it,” said Stack.
Blakely was motivated by what she didn’t have, believes her granddaughter Katie Gusa. She strived to offer her children and grandchildren the opportunities she missed out on, and more.
Along with embracing her various personal and professional roles, Blakely continued to be an avid community and business supporter in Sylvan Lake throughout her life.
“My mum got as much out of this community as much she put into it,” said Blakely’s daughter Kim Popilchak. “I was not the only one who was looking after her. There was always someone, somewhere … looking after my mom too,” she added.
In 1980, the County of Red Deer named the new school in Sylvan Lake “C.P. Blakely Elementary,” something Blakely considered to be her greatest honour. She often attended events and celebrations at C. P. Blakely Elementary School, said school principal Anne Frey.
“She was very passionate about education and building the community of Sylvan Lake. Her contribution to our school will always be remembered and for the things that she did in the past to build up the whole community of Sylvan Lake,” said Frey.
Blakely was also chosen as a recipient of the Queens Diamond Jubilee medal honouring significant contributions and achievements by Canadians in 2012.
She was very involved with the Sylvan Lake Chamber of Commerce, Communities in Bloom, Sylvan Lake Archives, the Sylvan Lake Presbyterian Church and Community Center Walking Group.
Blakely was a resilient woman who made the best out of situations, said Kim. She was warm and approachable, whose list of friends kept growing over the years.
Bunny Virtue, who lived across the hall from Blakely at the Sylvan Lake Fairway Estates, remembers her as a strong woman.
“She had to be strong to be a business woman and bring up three kids,” said Virtue, adding, “We spent a lot of time together. She was feisty, very interesting, kind, and quite humorous.”