A Life: Wallace Blake Traendly, 1947-2018; ‘He’s a Guy Who Was Completely True to Himself and Was True to Those Around Him’

  • — Family Photo

  • Blake Traendly, center, with his daughter Rachael and granddaughter Lua Blake in May 2017. Traendly raised five children in Strafford. 

  • Above: While raising his five children, Blake Traendly coached several baseball teams, including this group of youngsters in 1992. Right: Traendly, an accomplished carpenter, is seen in 1974 next to the house he built on Miller Pond Road in Strafford. Family photographs

  • Blake Traendly, right, and his daughter Natalie at her wedding on June 8, 2017. Natalie is the youngest of Traendly’s five children. Fiona Noyes—2017

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/14/2018 12:26:06 AM
Modified: 5/14/2018 12:26:08 AM

Strafford — Every summer, Blake Traendly would watch as his wife Aletta took great pains to sleep outside, where she could breathe in the fresh air and listen to the brook that runs alongside their South Strafford home.

Aletta was always hauling mattresses to the family’s porch until one spring, when she took a road trip with her sister and returned to find a Mother’s Day present from her husband.

In her absence, Traendly had constructed a sleeping porch on the side of the house, an outdoor bedroom screened in from the elements.

“My kids, my home and this are the three greatest gifts he ever could haven given me,” Aletta said while showing off the bedroom last week.

Traendly was known to many as a skilled carpenter who built more than 50 custom homes in the Upper Valley.

Traendly’s friends used to joke that Lake Morey should be named “Blake Morey,” since more than half the homes around the Fairlee lake were shaped by the carpenter in some way, said Keefe Traendly, one of Blake’s sons.

“My dad had the ability to work with architects to build houses into their surroundings,” he said. “He didn’t like putting these big, gaudy homes up. He fought for color schemes, he fought for the customer.”

But to many more people, he was a thoughtful family man, open-minded and honest to a fault.

It’s those qualities that friends and family say they’ll miss after Traendly died at home on April 13, 2018, at the age of 70, after a nearly a 15-year battle with cancer.

“He’s a guy who was completely true to himself and was true to those around him,” said Brooks Traendly, one of their five children. “He just had a very honest and authentic way of being that I think changed a lot of people that he came in contact with.”

Born on Nov. 15, 1947, in Orange, N.J., to Betty and Wally Traendly, Tranedly grew up the son of a driven publishing executive at McGraw-Hill in New York City.

“He could have probably had the world in terms of going into business in New York,” Aletta said. “(Wally) really wanted Blake to do the three-piece suit thing in New York. And Blake did. He tried.”

Traendly attended college at Miami University in Ohio, playing on the school’s football team. He graduated in 1969 and enlisted in the National Guard, where he served until 1972.

But after leaving the military, Traendly attempted to follow in his father’s footsteps, working in advertising and sales in New York City, Aletta said.

“And he hated it. He absolutely hated it,” she said.

That was until late 1972, when one of Traendly’s friends, who was attending the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, invited him to Strafford for a weekend.

“He said, ‘This is it.’ He said, ‘If you can find me a job, I’m moving,’ ” Aletta said. “By the next weekend, he had packed up his car, moved up here and got a job at Huntington Farm, I think, pounding fence posts.”

The news surprised Carson Phillips, a New Jersey native who met Traendly in the National Guard. The two both joined in the hopes of avoiding a tour in Vietnam, and later lived in New York when the war ended.

“I thought he was kidding,” Phillips said at Blake’s memorial service. “I didn’t realize Blake was on a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance, and he didn’t feel that he could find that in New York.”

After moving, Traendly apprenticed for Huntington Farms foreman Richard Moses. It’s there that he met longtime friend Tim Matson, who is now a writer and aquaculture consultant in Strafford.

The two would later rent the same house with other carpenters in town around 1975, as Traendly was starting his own business.

“You couldn’t have asked for a better friend,” Matson said. “We just knew everybody in town and went to parties together out on the town. We kind of grew up side by side.”

Dominique Mintz also described Blake as someone who would go out of his way to help anyone. The two met about 45 years ago, when her car got stuck in some mud outside his home. Traendly and a friend rushed to help.

“From that moment, we became instant friends,” she said.

Mintz recalled long nights eating meals together and dancing. Traendly was a terrific dancer, she said.

In 1977, Traendly met Aletta Chapman at a party in Corinth. Aletta, a fifth-generation Vermonter whose family owns Chapman’s store in Fairlee, said she was quickly drawn to his blue eyes.

“I walked in, and saw this guy and 12 days later, he asked me to marry him,” she said.

The two married in 1978 and bought a 5-acre property from Matson where Traendly built a house. The couple later cleared land, and built gardens and additions as their family grew.

“When we first moved here, this was all just rock and pine. There was nothing here,” Aletta said while sitting on her porch and overlooking her backyard. “The greatest gift he gave to me was an amazing family and this home. My soul is here.”

Together, the couple had five children — Berne, Keefe, Brooks, Rachael and Natalie.

All of the children were different, and the couple were careful to nurture each of their interests, said Natalie, the youngest of the five children.

“I wasn’t really a girly girl in any way and he encouraged me a lot,” she said. “I think he embraced my differences and he accepted them.”

Brooks, the middle child, recalls a busy household, one where Blake and Aletta juggled work, sports and extra curricular schedules.

While Traendly coached baseball for some of his sons, he was also OK stepping back and allowing them to do things on their own, Brooks said.

“He was just a very pretty cool dad in the sense that he always wanted to be involved but he never wanted to impose himself on any of us kids,” he said.

The family also took trips outside of the Upper Valley, visiting Mexico, New York City and other far off places.

“Dad always made sure we always got a taste of city life because he always thought it was important that weren’t all woodchucks,” Brooks said with a laugh. “He was a man of the world that tried to make sure that we kept our minds open to things that were outside of the Upper Valley.”

Traendly also thought it important to impart honesty onto his children.

“You always knew where he stood on any given thing,” Brooks said. “His love was direct and fierce at times.”

“He never pushed us in one direction or the other,” Keefe said during his father’s memorial service. “He just stood by us and held our hand when we needed it, and pushed us out the door when we needed that too.”

Keefe said his father’s resilience and presence was also apparent among his children, who he taught the importance of listening.

“He was somebody that everybody always knew was in the room,” he said. “And it’s not because he was loudest or most outspoken. It was because he was the one sitting, having a serious conversation or an intimate moment with somebody because the person really needed it.”

Traendly was also known to love fishing in the Upper Valley’s lakes and rivers, as well as long motorcycle rides and mystery novels. He also spent hours sitting quietly on his back porch, listening to the nearby brook babble on through his backyard.

Later in life, Blake and Aletta had three grandchildren — Austin, Harper and Eden.

“His grandkids were absolutely a huge part of the reason why he lived as long as he did,” Natalie said. “He loved his grandkids so much that anytime they would walk in a room, he would just light up and he would get to happy.”

While difficult, Traendly’s cancer diagnosis 15 years ago also softened him, Aletta said.

“He was always very solid in terms of the way he went about his life, with business, family, with friends” she said. “He didn’t waver. You knew exactly where he was coming from.”

“He learned grace through his illness and it was really amazing to watch,” Aletta added.

Although Traendly was battling cancer, he continued to project a sense of strength to family and friends, said Marty Mintz, Dominique’s husband.

“I think he was the strongest person I’ve ever known mentally,” Mintz said.

The two friends often traveled to doctor’s appointments together, where Traendly would talk about how grateful he was for every day, Mintz said. The nurses at the blood lab also loved Traendly, and would bring the candy truck over to him first, he said.

“He made light of everything, Mintz said, recalling how Traendly would joke with nurses and doctors.

At the end of his life, Traendly made the time to meet and say goodbye to those in his life. And when he died, he was surrounded by family, Aletta said.

“He used the time well. He just really honored the time that he had,” she said.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.

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