Michael E.J. Blastos, 80, of Keene, one of Keeneâ€™s longest-serving and one of the most beloved mayors, passed away peacefully Aug. 12, 2013, at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, after a sudden illness.
He was born in Malden, Mass., Sept. 13, 1932, son of James K. and Sophie A. (Bardis) Blastos.
He grew up and attended schools in Windsor, Vermont, and was a graduate of Windsor High School. He attended the University of Maryland, Florida State University, and was a graduate of the University of Vermont.
He served with the U.S. Air Force as a staff sergeant with the 3550th Combat Crew Training Group at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Ga. He was selected as â€śAirman of the Monthâ€ť in December 1954. This honor is only given to those â€śoutstanding Airmen who excel in the qualities of military bearing, neatness, efficiency, courtesy and character and to those who are highly qualified to perform their job.â€ť His colonel stated that â€śmen of this caliber are a valuable asset to the United States Air Force.â€ť He was honorably discharged in 1960.
Mr. Blastos was the driving force in his family, a great leader of the community and kind and generous to all. For more than 24 years, he served the “Great City of Keene” with distinction, everlasting passion and commitment. He was Keeneâ€™s first four-term mayor in more than 100 years.
He was a member of St. George Greek Orthodox Church, Gordon-Bissell American Legion Post 4 in Keene, the Keene Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks 927 and the Keene Lions Club, and was an honorary member of the Keene Kiwanis Club.
Mr. Blastos served as a selectman in Ward 1 in the 1960s and as a city councilor in the mid-’70s and was re-elected in 1986 and served until 2000, and in his 18 years of service he never missed a single meeting. In 2000, he became a member of the newly formed Heritage Commission and spearheaded the Save the Mill Buildings program, for which the state of New Hampshire awarded him the Preservation Alliance Award.
He helped to establish the Downtown Historic District, where more than 200 buildings were surveyed. The city of Keene was awarded a grant to preserve and save the Cheshire Railroad Stone Arch Bridge. In 2001, he served on the task force on child care and created the Child First Program working with the New Hampshire governor. In 2005, when Keene was spared major damage from the flood, he manned the command post at City Hall under the direction of the emergency management director, Gary Lamoureux. He assisted in helping to relocate families in need of housing and food.
He served on the Sundance Commission â€” a group of 47 mayors in small communities. Some of the accomplishments included adding a bicycle patrolman, energy audit of city buildings, green gas emissions survey, the new sewer treatment plant and several other energy projects.
He was instrumental in setting up the first comprehensive Master Plan Committee, establishing the German city partnership and the city of Keeneâ€™s 250th anniversary celebration.
He was also instrumental in the downtown beautification project, the city of Keeneâ€™s roundabouts, outdoor basketball courts and helping the Swamp Bats to come to Keene. Mr. Blastos was involved in many endeavors to make Keene and the surrounding communities a better place to live. He also received many awards and accolades for his untiring efforts.
He was a gracious host and was a true entrepreneur. He was the proud owner of The Pub Restaurant and Caterers in Keene, which he operated since 1969.
Survivors include his wife of 10 years, Carolyn (Chaisson) Blastos of Keene; four daughters, Sophia M. Santerre and her husband, Paul A., of York, Maine, Merri E.B. Howe and her husband, Kenneth N., of Keene, Stephannie K. Cyr and her husband, Gregory B., of Exeter, R.I., and Kimberly A. Ioannou and her husband, Kosta, of Nelson; a brother, Alexander J. Blastos and his wife, Lee Ann, of Milford; two sisters-in-law, Jean Blastos of Peabody, Mass., and Jacqueline Blastos of South Carolina; four grandchildren, Branden M.D. Howe, Dustin R. Howe, Cameron R.M. Cyr and Aiden M. Ioannou; several step-grandchildren and great-grandchildren; and nieces, nephews and cousins. His brothers, Louis Blastos and Col. Constantine J. Blastos, U.S. Army (retired), and a sister, Kathryn Costes, and her husband, George Costes, died earlier.
A liturgy of the word will be celebrated Friday at 10 a.m. at St. Bernardâ€™s Church, 185 Main St., Keene. All are invited. Burial will be private. Foley Funeral Home of Keene is assisting the family with arrangements (www.foleyfuneralhome.com).
There are no public visiting hours.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Rhode Island in honor of Mr. Blastos’ grandson, Cameron R.M. Cyr. Cameron was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia in 2011. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society funded the research that led to the discovery of a medicine called Gleevec, which Cameron takes daily. Today, Cameron is in remission and living a healthy life. Without the support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, none of this would have been possible. Mr. Blastos always put family first, and nothing would make him happier and more proud than for memorial contributions to be made to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Rhode Island, 1210 Pontiac Ave., Cranston, R.I. 02920 (www.llsri.org).