(WWLP) – The Co-founder of Friendly’s, S Prestley Blake, has died at the age of 106.
His niece made the announcement on Facebook Thursday evening.
Blake and his brother Curtis founded the ice cream shop in Springfield in 1935 at the height of the Great Depression. The first shop sold double-dip ice cream cones for five-cents.
In 1940 they opened in West Springfield with an expanded food menu. By 1974 the two brothers had expanded the chain to more than 500 restaurants. In 1979, after working together for more than 43 years, the Blakes sold the business to Hershey Foods for $164 million.
Later in his life, Blake donated millions of dollars to local colleges including Western New England University’s school of law and Springfield College. Blake was born in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1914.
“We learned this morning of the passing of S. Prestley Blake, H’82. A longtime contributor to Springfield College and co-founder of Friendly’s Ice Cream, Pres passed away yesterday at the age of 106. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, and loved ones, especially his dear wife and our friend, Helen Davis Blake, G’67, H’09, who has supported and served the College in numerous ways.Helen was the co-chair of Leadership for the 21st Century: The Campaign for Springfield College and is honorary chair of our to-be-announced Advancing Humanics campaign. Helen was a member of the College’s Board of Trustees for 20 years where she served as Vice-Chair (2006-2009), Secretary (2006-2006), and is presently a Trustee Emerita. She also served as a corporator from 1984-1990. In 2009, Helen received an honorary degree from Springfield College and is a Tarbell Medallion recipient. In 2015, Helen was the first-ever recipient of the President’s Philanthropy Award, which I was honored to give.
Pres was a humanitarian who lived our Humanics philosophy. As a result of his good fortune, he was dedicated in giving back to his community and education was among his top philanthropic priorities. The generosity of the Blakes is visible on college campuses throughout our area, and especially at Springfield College. One of their more recent contributions was in 2006, when a $2 million donation was made to rename the former Wilbraham Hall as Herbert P. Blake Hall, in honor of Pres’s late father.
In September of 1973, Pres was a major contributor towards the College’s Physical Education (PE) Complex, which included the naming of Blake Field. A plaque citing his devotion to the Springfield community and his concern for Springfield’s education is appropriately displayed there. Blake Field, including the quarter-mile running track with six lanes of synthetic surface material, as well as facilities for jumping, vaulting, discus throw, javelin and shot put throw continues to be used today for intercollegiate sports, classes, and intramural activities. The track is regularly used by the local Springfield community for exercise and recreation.
Pres loved the Home Show, known formally as the Gymnastics Exhibition Show, that is part of Homecoming Weekend. In October of 2014, Blake celebrated his 100th birthday at the Home Show where our campus community, from students, staff, and faculty, to alumni and friends, displayed their affection and devotion to Pres and to the Blake family. The moment was captured with this special video created by one of our students at the time.
We cannot express the sadness we feel at this time. Personally, I will always remember Pres as a kind man, a good friend, and one who was always so full of energy.
Pres’s legacy will always live on at Springfield College and I am so very honored to have worked with him on many projects, both at Springfield College and in our community. The Blake family and their generous spirit will always have a special place in our hearts at Springfield College. Rest In Peace, Pres.”
Mary-Beth Cooper, PhD, DM
Springfield College President
Mayor Sarno issues statement on the passing of Friendly Ice Cream Co-Founder and Philanthropist S. Prestley Blake
“My sympathy, thoughts, prayers, and encouragement go out to his wife Helen, and family and friends. I had the pleasure to get to know Mr. Blake or as he would say, ‘you are my friend call me ‘Pres’’, later on in his life. I remember fondly spending time with him during his 100th birthday celebration, at our Springfield Museums and his ‘Monticello’ property. ‘Pres’ was an old school self-made man with his simple values of hard work and your word is your bond. He had an iron handshake and was passionate about giving back to his community. A sharp, shrewd and visionary businessman who valued and preached the importance of great customer service and product that was family-friendly and affordable. He understood that having a loyal and dedicated workforce was the key to his and Friendly’s success. His philanthropic giving was second-to-none. He generously donated millions and millions of dollars towards the betterment of our Springfield community and beyond. Thank you ‘Pres’. You will be missed but your legacy of a life well-lived will live on. I am sure there will be a hamburger set-up, milkshake, and a sundae waiting for you up in heaven.”
22News had attended S. Presley Blake’s birthday party at the Friendly’s on upper Boston Road when he celebrated his 100th birthday. Blake displayed how spry he was for a Centenarian.
When asked for the secret of his longevity, Blake told 22News he never took a drop of alcohol in his life and started each day with a baby aspirin.
His doctor told him he could live to be 105 but he lived beyond his doctor’s expectations.
“On behalf of the Johnson Memorial Hospital family, physicians, colleagues, and Board of Directors, we would like to express our sincere condolences to S. Prestley Blake’s family. Prestley was an extraordinary father, husband, friend, leader, and philanthropist, with a great business sense, who never slowed down. Mr. & Mrs. Blake and their family are integral members of the Johnson Memorial community. We express our appreciation of their generous contributions to the hospital. He will be sorely missed in our community, but his memory, wishes, and legacy will continue to live on. We all send our heartfelt prayers to the family.”Stuart Rosenberg, MBA, President, Johnson Memorial Hospital