Dear All Things Southern friends, I prepared your newsletter tonight with a sore and tender heart. So much so that I almost didn’t send it at all. To be honest, it would’ve been easier not to do this. And yet, I decided I had to because I wanted you to know about the passing of a great friend of this community, Terry Michael Blakeney, Sr., known to my radio listeners as Mike Blakeney, my longtime radio producer and dear friend. Mike passed away very unexpectantly this past Saturday, Sept. 3rd, after a brief illness. Today we laid him to rest in Monroe, La. These are the words I spoke at his funeral…
I was introduced to Mike Blakeney more than 13 years ago, by our mutual friend, Tammi Arender. Ryan was in the 8th. Kristen was a sophomore, maybe, and Terry was already out on his own.
Back then, I was looking for someone to produce my fledging radio efforts. Tammi said Mike was the man. And he was. In the interest of full disclosure, Tammi also told me that Mike was divorced and shopping, and granted, he did come across as a big flirt that first day. But once he figured out that I was very happily married, I never had to worry about him crossing the boundaries. Never. Not once. Mike Blakeney was a true gentleman.
Mike was an easy man to be around. It wasn’t long before he was much, much more than the producer of my daily radio segments. He quickly became a dear friend and adopted member of my immediate family. My husband couldn’t be here today, but he grew to love and appreciate Mike Blakeney just as I did. Phil told me to remind y’all today that we all need to reach out and check on those we love more often. Wise words. Yes, Mike endeared himself to my parents and my children and my friends became his. That was Mike.
It’s impossible to explain all the ways that Mike has helped me over the years. For instance, I remember the early days after hurricane Katrina. My church was sheltering over 200 refugees and I was knee-deep in the church office trying to help shocked and grief-stricken souls locate their families scattered around the country even as their families were looking for them. Mike flew to Lake Providence in his own plane at his own expense, several times, to ferry me back and forth to Monroe so I could tape the show AND get the most out of those round-the-clock days. I was running on empty and Mike knew it. He did everything he could to pick up the slack.
And of course, there was Mike’s immense talent and knowledge of the industry that he freely shared with me. Mike did his best to help me deliver my best work week in and week out. Mike had the perfect radio voice. I have this. And yet, Mike, never tried to polish me and make me something else. If I were totally destroying the pronunciation of a word, he would gently step in with a suggestion but then and only then.
Last year, after a dozen years of working together on my weekly segments that are pre-taped and delivered to my various affiliates, circumstances changed in our ever-changing world of radio, and the opportunity finally presented itself for Mike and I to work together on my live program in addition to my prerecorded segments.
I only thought I understood the radio skills of Mike Blakeney. Working with him on a live show gave me the opportunity to witness his talent in a different light. I can only hope that I’ve learned and grown from that privilege. Mike the immense talent is gone much too soon, and I’ll miss his help. But it’s Mike the man who has left a huge void in my life.
If you know me at all, you know that I wear my faith on my sleeve. I can’t help it. I don’t want to. I must talk about Jesus because He has become my everything. It wasn’t always that way. I used to have religion. Period. I could church with the best of them. But, one day I came to the place where I needed to know this Jesus I’d been singing about since I sat in an itty bitty chair in a Sunday School classroom at Melbourne Baptist Church.
John 17.3 says “Eternal Life is to know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.” Those words became my mission. So I began learning how to surrender all of me to all of Him. I’m still learning, but nothing has been the same for me since I started running after this Jesus. Today, I know He lives. Not because I’ve been told He lives, but because I do life with Him and He does life with me.
When we first met, Mike was uncomfortable with my very open faith. He didn’t want to talk about his own. He parried my questions with responses meant to discourage me from further conversation. But, in thinking about what I would say today, I realized with sudden clarity that slowly and surely, over time, that had changed. By the end of his life, Mike wasn’t just listening to me go on and on about Jesus, he was engaged with what I was saying.
While Mike never became a theologian, wanting to discuss the ins and outs of the Scriptures, his heart had softened and his attitude towards all things Jesus had become respectful, engaged, and wide open. That gives me great comfort today. I pray it brings you comfort, too.
***Along with this text, I’ve also included an audio recording of these remarks along with those of his daughter Kristen Blakeney, his son Terry Michael Blakeney, Jr., and Captain Ryan Blakeney of the United States Air Force. Please pray for Mike’s loved ones during this difficult time.