Family, neighbors mourn West Oak Lane block captain Rheinhold Blake

Rosalyn Bias thought of Rheinhold Blake as her husband, and a caring one at that. This is odd because Bias, who lives on the 6700 block of N. 15th St., is single.

“Every day, when I come outside at 7 a.m., ‘Blake’ is the first person I’d see. Everyday,” Bias said Tuesday. “So, it’s been a tough week.”

That’s because Blake took ill on Dec. 30, was taken to the hospital and died a day later from a brain aneurysm. It’s been a tough week for Bias’s whole block because Blake was a block captain who always looked out for his neighbors and family.

When leaves fell to the ground, he raked them up, and when it snowed, he’d shovel. And, not just outside his house on a block of duplexes. If you smelled a barbeque grill going at 5:30 a.m., it’s because Blake was cooking for someone who needed to eat.

“As block captain, he took his job seriously, even when he wasn’t the block captain,” Bias said of a man who died at the age of 61. “If you were in need, he’d do anything you needed. He was a jolly guy. Enjoyed life. Had a really sweet spirit. I never saw him in a bad mood. Blake was just a great guy.”

A sibling mourns

Blake’s brother Joseph said being block captain was a source of pride for Rheinhold, a Navy veteran who worked 25 years for the Water Department before retiring. He moved to the block about 15 years ago and became block captain five years later.

“He led the charge,” Joseph said, noting that his brother became the “go-to guy” for block events and haranging the city if his neighbors needed services.

“The idea and concept of neighborhoods and the importance of block captains go hand-in-hand,” Joseph Blake said. “Growing up in Philadelphia, the position of block captain was both political and magical in that it brought services and supplies to your street that couldn’t have gotten there otherwise. It was also a position of leadership and pride.”

It’s a tribute to that spirit, Joseph Blake said, for neighbors to have prepared and handled the meal at the gathering after his funeral like they did last week.

Though he recently suffered a non-debilitating stroke, the death came as a total shock for a man who considered Rheinhold the perfect brotherly counterweight.

“We were like yin and yang and when you lose that yin-and-yang dynamic, you’re out of balance,” he said Monday. “He was down-to-earth, straightforward. He trusted people until they proved they were unworthy of trust while I’m skeptical from the start.

“He lived with arms open, giving people money he didn’t have to give money to. He’d give someone a nickel and then ask me to give him a dime. When I asked about it, he’d say that person needed it more than I do. It made sense.”

Blake is survived by his wife, five daughters, brother and a block of loving friends.

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