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Charles P. Blakely Sr., 98, Bethlehem Steel retiree, World War II vet, minister

Sept. 11, 1919 – Aug. 31, 2018

Charles Phillip Blakely Sr., a retired steel plant security guard, ordained minister and World War II veteran, died Aug. 31 in his Buffalo home after a battle with cancer. He was 98.

Born in Evergreen, La., the fourth of five children, he grew up in Abilene, Texas, and was working there as a waiter when he was drafted into the Army. He was in basic training when Pearl Harbor was attacked.

He served in North Africa and Italy with the 370th Battalion, 92nd Infantry Division, an all-black division, as an ammunition bearer and attained the rank of private first class. He received numerous service medals.

Shortly after returning from service, he decided to leave Abilene.

“I was looking for a place that wasn’t segregated and I was going to California, but decided to go to Buffalo,” he told Buffalo News reporter Lou Michel in 2017. “I’ll just make it plain: I had more freedom here and better living conditions.”

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He found a job at Bethlehem Steel, where he was a security guard for 33 years.

He became a member of Mount Zion Church of God Holiness and contributed his distinctive bass voice to the church choir for more than 60 years. In 1993, he became an ordained minister in the church and later was appointed as a national evangelist in the Churches of God Holiness.

Known for his promptness, warm smile and faithful church attendance, he was a Sunday school scholar, church trustee, president of the Prayer Band and church custodian.

He was honored for his World War II service by Mayor Byron W. Brown on the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 2016.

Survivors include his wife of 68 years, the former LaRusha Hester; two sons, Charles P. Jr. and Minister Marvin; six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, in Ephesus Ministries, 341 Grider St.

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