Friends, family remember former Keene Mayor Blastos
KEENE — City flags are flying at half staff this week as the city mourns the loss of former mayor Michael E.J. Blastos.
"Mike Blastos meant a lot to this community, and it's just one of the little ways of showing respect for all he did for us and the community's grief for losing a leader of his caliber," City Manager John MacLean said Tuesday.
Blastos was the city's longest serving mayor, serving four terms for a total of eight years. Combined with his 24 years as a city councilor, he served city government for 32 years, his eldest daughter, Sophia Santerre of York, Maine, said Tuesday.
Blastos's death was unexpected. He became ill Sunday and went to the Cheshire Medical Center emergency room, then was transferred to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, where he passed away Monday around 11 p.m., she said. He would have been 81 next month, she said.
Santerre said, "His family, his business, his friends and the town of Keene were who Mike Blastos was."
Upon hearing the news, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said in a statement: "I was saddened to learn of the passing of former Keene Mayor Mike Blastos. I was lucky to have him as a friend. He was an incredibly dedicated public servant who cared deeply about Keene. My thoughts and prayers are with all of Mike's family and friends."
First elected to City Council in 1976, he retired from city government in 2007.
From environmental initiatives to the addition of roundabouts to city streets, Blastos played a significant role in the shaping of the city over his years of service, MacLean said.
Blastos was also a longtime business owner in the city.
Starting with a grocery store that was originally his first wife's family business, he was an owner and entrepreneur in Keene from the late 1950s on.
He owned Mr. Pizza on Main Street for many years.
"That was the pizza place in Keene for many years," Santerre said. "It was not unusual for him to be owning and running three different businesses at one time from the 1960s to the late 1970s."
In 1968, he opened the Pub Restaurant and Catering on Winchester Street, which was often a source of his generosity when a crisis hit the city.
Whenever there was a natural disaster, Blastos's restaurant kitchen would make food for the emergency workers, MacLean said.
"He did that constantly," his daughter said. "He would open the restaurant up and feed the emergency and electrical crews."
"Mike was just a great humanitarian. He reached out to people in a variety of ways," MacLean said.
While mayor, he would attend Keene State College freshman orientation and would make the offer to parents that he would sing Happy Birthday to their children if they wanted.
MacLean said he remembers coming into the offices of City Hall and often hearing Blastos in his office on the phone singing happy birthday to a student's answering machine.
Santerre remembers her dad being very politically active and always helping people.
"He was our dad and he was larger than life," Santerre said. "If you stopped 10 people on the street, eight people would know who he was and of those eight, five would have a story about how he had helped them."
He leaves his wife of nine years, Carolyn Blastos, his four daughters Santerre, Merri Howe of Keene, Stephannie Cyr of Exeter, R.I., and Kimberly Ioannou of Nelson, and his first wife, Patricia Blastos of Westmoreland, whom he remained friends with after their divorce.
He was a member of the Greek Orthodox Church.
A private funeral service is planned to take place at his parish, Saint George Greek Orthodox Church in Keene, Sanperre said. A public service is planned for Friday morning at St. Bernard's Catholic Church on Main Street at 10 a.m.
At his request, there will be no calling hours.