Thursday, February 22, 2018

Longview widower pursues resting place for ashes of wife killed in wreck

By Jimmy Daniell Isaac
Feb. 1, 2018 at 12:23 a.m.

David Blazek looks over the future site Wednesday of the St. Mary's Catholic Church columbarium, a wall with an arrangement of niches into which a deceased person's ashes are placed.

Two days before her death in a wreck, Martha Blazek made clear her burial plans, her husband of 43 years said Wednesday.

"'We're going to be cremated,'" David Blazek remembered his wife saying after their son and daughter-in-law asked about their arrangements.

"My only response was, 'Yes, ma'am!'" Blazek recalled with a laugh.

That conversation happened on a Saturday — two nights before the 27-year Pine Tree ISD employee died May 1 in a two-vehicle crash on West Marshall Avenue at Enterprise Street.

"So I knew exactly Monday evening where I was going," Blazek said. "There was no question about it."

He is now leading efforts at St. Mary's Catholic Church to build a columbarium beside the church's rosary garden.

It was the columbarium idea that likely put the cremation plan into the thoughts of his wife, who was the Pine Tree Middle School nurse, he said.

It began when he was asked by his pastor about three months earlier to pursue construction of a columbarium, a wall with an arrangement of niches into which a deceased person's ashes are placed.

After talking with his pastor, Blazek shared the idea with his wife, who responded, "That would be a nice idea. I would like to be buried there."

"And I quickly turned to her and said, 'Well, you know, there's only one way you get there. You understand what a columbarium is. ... To make certain, you know you have to be cremated,' and she said, 'I'm OK with that.'"

On Tuesday, Blazek took an important regulatory step toward building what could become his late wife's final resting place. His zoning application on behalf of St. Mary's church received unanimous support from the city's Planning and Zoning Commission.

The Longview City Council could give final approval to rezone the 0.691-acre site from single family residential to planned development zoning when it meets Feb. 8 at City Hall.

City Planner Angela Choy said the rezoning would allow for a columbarium while keeping the church's tax-exempt status intact with the state.

"We had a similar case several years ago from St. Matthew's, which was along the same lines," Choy said.

If approved, the columbarium's first section would be a concrete base and a 90-foot-by-60-foot wall with as many as 378 niches, Blazek and Choy said.

The wall would have a granite face with the names of the deceased.

Catholic beliefs follow the "Seven Corporal Works of Mercy," which includes feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and the imprisoned and burying the dead, said St. Mary's pastor, the Rev. Daniel P. Dower.

Through prayers and actions during those times, Catholics show respect for life and the bodies created by God to comfort those who mourn.

"It is also for this reason that Catholics are not allowed to keep a loved one's ashes at home for any reason or to spread them freely on the ground, water or into the air," Dower said. "Having been created in God's image and likeness, once our soul separates from our body in death, we must respectfully repose our bodies into the earth from which we came or in a columbarium in the case of cremated remains."

Blazek said he hopes to have the columbarium completed by late summer or at least before Dec. 31, he said.

The church has several urns containing ashes that it's holding in preparation for the structure, including those of the woman Blazek called "the love of my life."

Martha Blazek was 18 days from retiring from Pine Tree ISD and planned to become the parish nurse, David Blazek said.

"In her church life, she's helped many people. Her ministry went beyond the school and beyond the church," he said. "It's kind of strange how God's hands work in this."



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