By Cheryl Brown
Funeral services were held for two men, both natives of California, who died recently.
Benjamin "Benji" Mark Stevens Roberts (55) and Benton P.K. Blakely (79) both died suddenly leaving their families and Inland Empire friends grieving. Blakely had suffered with diabetes and an array of other illnesses for a long period of time and Roberts died of a massive heart attack.
The Blakely and Roberts families are very well known in the Inland Empire. Both families were intertwined, they knew each others kin. Words of sorrow have gone out to both families in their time of bereavement.
Benjamin Roberts was born in Riverside in 1947. His parents, Benjamin James Roberts and Aline A. Roberts, proceeded him in death.
He was an active member of Park Avenue Baptist Church as a child and attended Longfellow Elementary School and University Jr. High before the family moved to San Diego. He completed high school there. While in high school he was a star athlete. He lettered in football. He was musically gifted and performed with the Madrigal Singers. While still in high school he joined and was active in Bethel Baptist Church using his talent to sing in the choir and the youth ministry.
The talented athlete missed his brother and other family members who remained in Riverside, so he decided to return to his birthplace to attend college. He returned and attended Riverside City (Community) College and again lettered in football.
For thirty years Benjamin was employed by the city of Riverside working his way up in various departments while continuing his education. P.K. Blakely also continued his education and received a BA from Shaw University and an MA from the University of Redlands. Blakely, like Roberts, was loved by all who knew him.
"You know what I mean, you know what I mean! was Blakely's mantra. It was a statement of solidarity and not a question of understanding.
P.K. Blakely was born in Watts, California to John and Bertha Blakely in 1923. He was the last of six children in the family. He attended school in the Los Angeles area until the family moved to Colton, CA and he graduated from Colton High School.
Children and grandchildren were very important to both men. P.K. enjoyed surrounding himself with his children and grandchildren, liberally hugging and kissing them showing immeasurable affection. Roberts children said it all in the tribute they wrote, "Because of you I am able to see the good in people and understand what really matters in life," said his son Christopher.
In the early 1940s Blakely began working for Santa Fe Railroad as a turntable operator and fire builder in the San Bernardino shop. He left when his country called on him to fight the war effort in World War II. He joined the Army and was stationed in Germany and India. After leaving active duty he remained in the Army Reserves and retired with the rank of Major.
Blakely was very close to his brother Edward who lives in Moreno Valley. Roberts was very close to his brother Dell.
Both worked for city government. P.K. worked for the mayor of San Bernardino and Roberts worked for the City of Riverside. Blakley grew up in St. Paul AME Church where you could find him sitting in his favorite seat in the rear on the left side of the church for many years. In later years he attended Loveland and Ecclesia. Roberts was a vital member of the Bethel Christian Church family where he was actively involved in the leadership of various ministries.
Benji was one of the most helpful friendly people youll ever meet. He struggled through the system, been through the wars and was optimistic about the future, said Jim Smith head of the management budget office.
Blakely became manager of Golden State Life Insurance Company in San Bernardino and Dallas, Texas. Along with four close friends he founded Mother Goose Nursery, San Bernardino's first Black owned commercial day care center. In 1972 he returned to Santa Fe as Assistant Manager of Peronnel Coast Lines. Five years later he joined AMTRAK as Director of Personnel - Western Region until he retired in 1966.
Carl Clemons, a friend of Blakely's for 75 years said, "all of PKs adult life he has strived to command a leadership role in all he did. From his employers to his involvement in the 1402 Engineer Battalion, to the S.B. Economic Agency and other state civic organizations. Clemons said in their younger years they dated girls together, went into the service together (different branches) helped to organize the American Legion Post 710 together, both married and raised families together, vacationed together and we both saw our lives change when we both lost our wives of over 50 years. Such a friend to have. We will meet again, he concluded.
Left to mourn the memory of Roberts are: sons, Christopher, Morgan, Grant (from his union with Sandra Wright of Rialto); grandson Desmond and granddaughter Akasha; brother Adrain Dell Roberts (Carmen) of Riverside, sisters Ethel Wingo of Riverside, Jacqueline Malone (Gerald) of Inglewood, Charlotte Ballard of Dublin, CA, and Joyce Davenport of San Diego with many nieces nephews, cousins and friends.
Left to mourn the memory of Blakely are: daughter Toni and husband Roger Scott of Halton City, TX his daughter-in-law Gertrude Blakley of San Bernardino, grandchildren Jeremi and Robin Scott of Halton City, TX, Kelli Blakely and Larry Blakley, Jr and his wife Collette and their children L.J and Monte of San Bernardino and a brother Edward Blakely of Moreno Valley, and a host of other relatives and close friends.
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