ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - A legend of the Minnesota State Fair has passed away at the age of 83 after the family of Art Blakey says he died over the weekend from heart failure.
For more than three decades Blakey was the police chief of the fairgrounds.
He was also a decorated lieutenant with the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office and mentor to thousands of people.
This year's fair will have a bittersweet start to it as almost everywhere you walk around here you see Art Blakey's name.
The police department building is named after him and there are benches there honoring him.
He leaves a huge legacy behind that'll be nearly impossible to fill.
Nearly a year ago, Fox 9 caught up with Art Blakey as he was officially retiring from his job as police chief of the Minnesota Fairgrounds after 37 years.
His family says his favorite part of working the fair was just talking to people.
“That was his hobby, that was his second home, and he enjoyed every minute of it and we learned a long time ago to just share him with the world and share him with the fair and we became part of that fair,” said Brooke Blakey, Art’s daughter.
Blakey passed away Saturday morning surrounded by his family. Brooke is also a police officer and often worked alongside him at the fair every summer.
In just a few weeks, though, she'll be on her own at the fairgrounds without her dad.
“It will definitely be bittersweet but I know that he’s there in spirit and his mark has been left, the building bears his name—there are benches throughout—so we’ll just walk in there to carry on that legacy.”
Brooke said her father's dedication and service to his community as a Ramsey County Sheriff's Office inspired her to also become a police officer.
One of their last moments together was two weeks ago when he was able to attend her promotion ceremony to sergeant within the Metro Transit department.
“He was in his element again and that was even better,” she said. “That was everything.”
She added he was, "a really unique person."
Ramsey County Sheriff Jack Serier was just coming up the ranks when Blakey was a lieutenant.
Serier said Blakey's motto was community policing and having an extraordinary ability to connect with anyone on the street. In fact, he publicly forgave the man who shot him three times.
That man also stopped by the house to pay his respects to Blakey in his final days.
“Part of what Art had was great character and a great sense of forgiveness and nothing is a greater example of that than publicly forgiving the person who shot and badly wounded him many years ago, and to think about that alone speaks a great deal to his personal character and the heart and nature of Art Blakey,” said Serier.