ANGLETON — Former UTMB Health Angleton Danbury Campus CEO and administrator Dave Bleakney, 68, died unexpectedly Sunday morning, family members said.
“We’re all really shocked and saddened to hear of his passing,” UTMB Health Angleton Danbury Campus spokeswoman Tonya Visor said. “But we want to honor him and remember him.”
Bleakney served the hospital district for more than 20 years before retiring in March 2016. During his time there, his heart and soul poured out into the community, said Melba Beken, chairwoman of the Angleton-Danbury Hospital District board.
“He was just like family — and he’s family of choice, so this is just such a shock to everyone,” Beken said. “I worked with him for 25 years.”
Bleakney’s personal goals mirrored his professional success, Beken said.
“He was bigger than life. He was our guiding light,” Beken said in a letter. “With his help, we became a well-respected hospital. We grew, adding numerous physicians, buildings, disciplines and new wings.”
As a strong leader and supporter of the hospital’s growth, Bleakney set the stage for major expansion, according to a 2015 press release from UTMB Health Angleton Danbury Campus.
“Bleakney’s vision and strong leadership led to many accomplishments, including the acquisition of 27 acres adjacent to the hospital and a $22 million expansion in 2006 that raised the bar of health care in southern Brazoria County,” the release states. “His clear-cut decision to seek opportunities to ensure a sustainable health care system in the midst of national health care uncertainties led the way for Angleton Danbury Medical Center to join the UTMB Health System.”
Denise Leitch, who served as executive assistant to Bleakney for 20 years, said he was a fantastic boss.
“I learned a lot working with him,” Leitch said. “He was a wonderful boss — very fair and very smart. A lot of people said we went together like peas and carrots. He was just an awesome boss and always had my back, and I just learned a lot over the years.”
Friends and colleagues of Bleakney said he always looked out for his community as a leader and champion of Angleton.
“I first got to know Dave when we first got to talking about UTMB partnering,” said Katrina Lambrecht, UTMB’s vice president for Health System Operations and Regional Hospitals. “I was really able to learn a lot from him. The partnership would have never have happened if it hadn’t been for him. He really was an amazing leader, and I had such a great opportunity to learn from him and work with him.”
Lambrecht emphasized Bleakney’s visions for Southern Brazoria County were near to his heart and will have a lasting impact on the area for decades to come.
“He was one of my closest friends,” hospital district board CFO Bill Garwood said. “We worked together for 26 years, and we worked very, very closely and spent a lot of time in our personal family lives together as well. He was a great human being, always looking out for community and residents and was always looking for a way to put the hospital first.”
Since retiring, Bleakney spent time traveling with family and enjoying life, former colleagues said.
He recently moved to a home near a lake and was really enjoying his retirement, Leitch said.
Bleakney is survived by his wife, Karen; his two children, Laura Holmelin and Dave Bleakney Jr.; as well as three grandchildren.
A funeral service for Bleakney will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday at First Baptist Church, 237 E. Locust St. in Angleton.
The family asks, in lieu of flowers, remembrances be made to the Angleton Danbury Hospital District Auxiliary, Brazosport College Foundation, Angleton ISD Education Foundation or the Danbury ISD Education Foundation.