Obituary of Francis Wayne Blake
Francis Wayne Blake, of Fort Collins, Colorado, passed peacefully into the presence of his Savior, Jesus Christ, at Greeley Village, Greeley, Colorado, on January 24, 2024, at the age of 91. Francis was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on August 28, 1932, and was raised in Hereford, Colorado. He and his father, Benjamin Blake, operated the Blake Ranch cattle and wheat operation in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming. Francis graduated from Grover High School (now Pawnee) in 1950. He then attended Colorado A & M and the University of Wyoming, where he was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and the livestock judging team. He received BS degrees in Agricultural Science and Animal Husbandry in 1954. Francis met his beloved wife of sixty-nine years, Joanne, at a basketball game at the University of Wyoming, and they were married in Cheyenne on September 6, 1953. He served two years active duty in the U.S. Naval Reserves, at the U.S. Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, California, attaining the rank of Petty Officer Second Class (SKG2). Other than his time in the service, he lived his entire life in Colorado as a rancher, where he and Joanne raised two daughters, Cynthia and Linda, until he retired and moved to Fort Collins, Colorado in his later years.
Francis was a cowboy with a strong work ethic coupled with honesty and fairness in his dealings. His research and acumen made him a pioneer and entrepreneur in agriculture and farming. He designed and built an extensive set of feedlots and chutes to work and process cattle on his several thousand-acre ranch. He was an accomplished welder and mechanic, able to repair any piece of equipment; but also an inventor, who received several patents on inventions to improve productivity and proficiency. His notable inventions included a caster-wheeled farm cart, a farm tool carrier, a four wheeled farm cart, and a tandem wheel plow which allowed one man to plow many more rows at a time than a regular plow. He powered the plow with a unique tandem hitch of two John Deere tractors which provided much more power, allowing one man to farm more acreage in a shorter amount of time. Over the years he received several awards for his dryland wheat operation and innovation with irrigation for other crops, including Conservationist of the Year for soil and water resources from the West Greeley Conservation District. He raised premier registered Shorthorn cattle for years, but was able to pivot with the times in the 1970’s and introduce crossbreeding into his herd with Limousins and Simmentals. He stayed on the leading edge of the industry, and his initiatives with cattle breeding were recognized by the American Breeders Service (ABS), who showcased the Blake Ranch for guided tours as an example of the innovations with artificial insemination and crossbreeding for cattle herds. He served as President of the Weld County Livestock Association, and was also an active member for many years of the Farm Bureau, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Livestock Association, Colorado Association of Wheat Growers, American Shorthorn Association, and the North American Limousin Foundation.
Francis loved the land, horses, cattle, dogs, and his family above all. Although he felt more at home on the high plains of northern Colorado, he also loved the mountains, which were the frequent destination for many family trips with the children and grandchildren. He was fascinated by the Rocky Mountain “14ers” and climbed at least 22 of them, the last one being Longs Peak at the age of 70.
Professing faith in Christ as a young adult, Francis’s faith was the paramount tenet in his life, resulting in his homegoing as being "absent from the body, but present with the Lord". He was a voracious reader and student of the Bible and history, focusing on the correlations and applications to Christians. As he shared his faith, no lesson was presented without thorough and detailed study and analysis, often writing meticulous notes and commentaries for his family and Sunday School students, including two special ones for his grandchildren – “Hezekiah a Model for a Godly Life” and a “Summary Survey of Ecclesiastes”. He was a member of the Hereford Community Church in Hereford, where he taught children’s Sunday School and later, Front Range Baptist Church in Fort Collins, where he taught the adult Sunday School class.
Francis is survived by his two children Cynthia (Dale) Tiller of Lee's Summit, Missouri, Linda (Jamie) Collins of Goose Creek, South Carolina; six grandchildren: Angela (Brian) Burleigh of Orlando, FL, Dr. Joanna (Andrew) Lewis of Jacksonville, FL, Joshua (Melissa) Nelson of Summerville, SC, Mark Simmons, Jr., of Kansas City, MO, Matthew (Karla) Simmons of Queen City, Texas, and Caleb (Jennifer) Nelson of North Charleston, SC; nine great-grandchildren, and several nieces and nephews. Francis was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Joanne; parents, Benjamin and Ettie Blake; sister Barbara Hubble; and brother, infant baby boy. A public graveside service will be held on February 26 at 11:00 AM at Linn Grove Cemetery, 1700 Cedar Avenue, Greeley, Colorado 80631, with a reception following at Adamson Life Celebration Home at 2000 47th Avenue, Greeley, Colorado. Food will be provided. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations be made to the Broomfield Community Church, 255 Miramonte Blvd., Broomfield, CO 80020, which had a dedicated ministry to Francis in the last year of his life.To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Francis Blake, please visit Tribute Store