In Memoriam: James Blakeney, Sr., Local 1303-292, Darien Public Works

Council 4 mourns the loss of Local 1303-292 member James P. Blakeney, Sr., who died Dec. 19 from complications due to COVID-19. He was 60.

Blakeney was a Driver-Laborer II for the Darien Department of Public Works, where he had been employed for more than 19 years.  Bargaining Unit President Dan Obuchowski remembers him as a dedicated employee and union member with a gift for making everyone smile.

“James was one of a kind,” Obuchowski reflected. “There will never be another one like him.”

Obuchowski, a heavy equipment operator and skilled laborer, has worked for the Darien DPW for 17 years. He knew Blakeney before he came to Darien, and working together for so many years further cemented their mutual friendship and appreciation.

“We always joked around and had a good time,” he said. “James was a happy person. He always greeted you with a smile in the morning. His personality drew people to him.”

Blakeney took delight in many things, whether it was his time with his family (he leaves behind his wife Malette, and sons James, Jr., Jerrod and Jordan)  or serving as a deacon at Mt. Nebo Baptist Church in Bridgeport.

Heading into the Thanksgiving holiday, Blakeney was even more upbeat than usual because Jerrod was headed home for a break after being stationed for a year in Cuba with the National Guard.

“James was so excited and happy to be home with his son,” Obuchowski said. “He was looking forward to the holidays.”

Blakeney’s death is a sad reminder of the coronavirus pandemic's wearying toll. 

“This is our first dealing with COVID-19. It definitely hit home,” Obuchowski said. “We took it seriously before James died. You just try your best to stay safe. Wear your masks and maintain social distance.”

Local 1303-292 is staying in touch with Malette and making sure she and her family have the resources and union-negotiated benefit needed to cope with James’s death.

The loss of their union brother has been deeply felt by the 30-member bargaining unit, a close-knit group of dedicated employees who take pride in getting the job done for their town.

“We all took it hard. It’s been somber, but we’re slowly coming around as we think of James,” Obuchowski said. “Our support group is right here in the garage. His passing has brought us closer.”

Contributions in James Blakeney Sr.'s memory can be made to Mt. Nebo Baptist Church, 360 Colorado Ave., Bridgeport, CT 06605.