LAFAYETTE — The University of Louisiana at Lafayette and others are mourning the death of professor and community leader Eldred “Griff” Blakewood IV, who at 54 succumbed to cancer Monday after a yearlong battle.
The Baton Rouge transplant, a professor of geosciences, was the catalyst for many area movements such as the Save the Horse Farm campaign and installing bike lanes at UL-Lafayette and Johnston Street.
“If he wasn’t on his bike, he’d be driving around in his old purple Ford Taurus with a canoe strapped on the top,” said E.B. Brooks, director of the Lafayette Central Park project. “If he wasn’t on a bike or if he wasn’t dancing at Festival (International), his favorite place to be, for sure, would be in a canoe.”
Brooks recalled frequenting Lake Martin, Chicot State Park and Buffalo Creek with Blakewood and his family, along with members of UL-Lafayette’s Society for Peace, Environment, Action and Knowledge. Blakewood was the group’s faculty adviser.
“We banded together like a tribe,” Brooks said. “He inspired us to learn about all kinds of sustainable movements that were happening all over the world and encouraged us to get things started in Lafayette.”
Brooks said Blakewood inspired her and classmate Danica Adams to fight to turn the Johnston Street Horse Farm into something meaningful.
“He came to every meeting we ever had with (then UL-Lafayette President) Dr. (Ray) Authement, and was really our champion as our faculty adviser to make sure there was some sort of legitimacy for our campaign from the university perspective,” she said.
Brooks said Blakewood touched every person he met.
“You couldn’t meet him and not know that he was special,” she said. “Everything he said was so prophetic. He was almost like Mahatma Ghandi. He spoke these amazingly beautiful and inspirational truths that seemed so prophetic and enlightening.”
Blakewood received an outpouring on his Facebook wall.
“First there was Buddha, then there was Jesus, and then there was Griff Blakewood,” wrote biology student Dylan Paul DeRouen on Blakewood’s Facebook wall. “Words cannot describe how much you have changed my life. Rest in peace to the greatest man and teacher I have ever known. You will never be forgotten. May your students carry on your legacy.”
“I feel so thankful to have known you,” wrote Danielle Bolton Van Dyke. “You had the ability to light a fire in everyone around you. You were one of the most amazing people I have ever known.”
“You changed lives, you changed Lafayette, (and) you changed the world, Griff Blakewood,” wrote Katherine Lemoine. “Every single person you encountered was met with unconditional love, respect, and your incredible natural ability to inspire without bounds. I cannot even fathom what you shall bring to the next realm. We are all changed because of you. Thank you.”
Blakewood is survived by his wife Alice and his two children, Eldred and Harrison. Funeral services are pending.