In Memoriam

Ernest Lee Blackley

OCTOBER 06, 1940 – AUGUST 19, 2023

Ernest was born in Wake County on October 6, 1940, to the late Theodore R. and Mattie Hicks Blackley. Ernest grew up in Zebulon and was the son of farmers. He and his siblings worked hard to help the family grow their crops. They were a close and loving family, but the Blackley boys were also mischievous. When they became adults, he and his brothers loved to get together and tell stories about all the pranks they pulled on their daddy as teenagers.

Ernest met his future wife, Joyce, in 1958 when he visited the “Lee boys” with his cousin. She was immediately impressed by his sparkling blue eyes and the fact that he had a car. They married in 1959. He always tried to make her happy, and she did the same for him. Their marriage was an incredible love story.

Ernest worked his entire career at Jesse Jones Sausage Co., which later became Goodmark Foods. He retired after 38 years of dedicated service. Ernest began his second career with his wife, Joyce, by starting the family business, Blackley’s Printing and Sign Shop, in 1977 in their home and, in 1987, moved it to its current location on Main Street in Clayton. After retirement, you could find him at the “shop” greeting customers or around town making deliveries.

He and Joyce helped start the Clayton Christmas Village and Tree Lighting in 1990 when he provided the first Christmas tree for the event, a cedar tree, that Ernest cut down from behind their business on Main Street. Ernest was also a member of the Clayton Chamber of Commerce and a devoted First Baptist Church of Clayton member for 48 years.

Ernest was a member of the Clayton Rotary Club for over 44 years and received a Paul Harris Fellow Recognition. He lived the Rotary motto, “Service Above Self.”  After retiring as a regular member, the Clayton Rotary Club made him and Joyce Honorary Members at the Clayton Rotary Park groundbreaking ceremony on October 5, 2019.

Ernest passed away at the age of 82 on Saturday, August 19, 2023. He is always remembered fondly and will be missed.