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Charles Drake

‘He was my best friend’ Chuck Drake, 90, remembered as humble, loving husband, father

By DAMIAN DOMINGUEZ  ddominguez@indexjournal.com
Dec 5, 2020

C huck Drake Sr. wasn’t quite 18 years old when he started classes at his beloved Florida State University. He would go on to have a distinguished career as a pilot in the U.S. Army during the wars in Korea and Vietnam and would later settle down in Greenwood with his wife, Anne, to start the Drake, Drake & Associates life insurance company. But in the tail end of the 1940s, he was one of the first wave of men to attend FSU. The college became coed after World War II to facilitate the influx of men into higher education. “He went in as a little 18-year-old, not-quite-18- year-old country boy,” Anne said. “They put the men in the old, wooden barracks. ... He said that the first night he was there, he couldn’t remember where he was staying at.” Anne was a junior at FSU during Chuck’s freshman year. After a weekend trip to Georgia Tech in Atlanta, she and a friend were riding a bus back to FSU. “I was on the Greyhound bus coming back from that weekend,” Anne remembered. “These two guys, young men, were on there too. ... We had about a six-hour bus ride, all through the night.” Anne was getting worried thinking about how she would make it back from the bus station to her sorority house in the dark. Concerned about taking a taxi alone, she and her friend asked those two young men to share a cab with them. “One of them was Chuck Drake,” she said with a smile. “Turns out, we had been in a class together, and we had never noticed.” But they noticed after that evening. They shared an art class, and despite the two of them getting better acquainted, she said he thought she had a boyfriend at Georgia Tech. He was too shy to make a move. Eventually, he did ask her out; he asked her to accompany him to a nearby fraternity beach party. The only problem was it landed on the same day as Anne’s mother’s birthday. “He looked so downtrodden that I told him I would call my mother and let her know I couldn’t join her this year,” she said. They spent nearly all day together. “Finally, I had met the right person,” she said. “Then it was just a matter of time.” After dating a few months, they decided to get married and finish school as husband and wife. They only told two others: Chuck’s roommates, who were in on the secret because they could provide a car and drive the couple to a chapel. They were married at a Methodist church in Tallahassee, and for the next 20 years, the couple wrote letters to the minister who officiated their wedding, updating him on their love. “He was my best friend,” Anne said. “What else can I say?” Anne and Chuck were married 69 years. He died unexpectedly on Nov. 25 at age 90. The couple taught elementary school in Panama City after graduation, and Chuck was drafted into the Army in 1952. He served for one tour in Korea, then two tours in Vietnam where he flew helicopters. He was highly recognized and decorated for his bravery, both by the Vietnamese government and the Americans. “He proudly wore some of their honors, and our own government recognized him very well,” Anne said. Chuck was awarded the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, a Bronze Star with a V for Valor and Oak Leaf Cluster, an Air Medal and the Army Commendation medal. He retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1975, and the helicopter he flew is on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Anne recalled seeing the helicopter lit up, with mannequins in the cockpit and a Robin Hood-style hat on the dashboard to honor the Robin Hood unit. “I burst into tears. They had it up with the lights flashing like it was in combat,” she said. “It became so amazing, the bravery that he had.” But Chuck was always humble about his accomplishments. He was a private person and kept that shy demeanor Anne remembered from college. His son, Charles Drake Jr., said his father was a loving person with a heart for others. “I think he was a true servant,” Charles said. “He served his fellow man as a soldier, and as a Sunday school teacher. “And he served his God,” Anne added. As a devoted member of Main Street United Methodist Church, Chuck made such an impression that the Drake Sunday School was named in his honor. Together, Chuck and Anne worked with the company The Equitable to start their life insurance company. Charles works for the company now, and he said he’s proud to continue their legacy and help take care of the business, and the people they serve. Chuck coached soccer, was a scout leader, was active in a number of civic and political groups, volunteered in his community and stayed an avid fan of his alma mater all his days. Despite all the accomplishments of his life, Chuck remained grounded. “He used to tell me had he never been drafted, he probably would have been a high school principal or a football coach in the little town he grew up in,” Charles said. He seldom met a stranger and never had an enemy. When he’d go out with his family, Chuck made it a point to learn little details about strangers he’d meet. He loved to tell little jokes and cared deeply for his friends and family. “He was a balancing force,” Charles said. “He was such a loving person.”

By DAMIAN DOMINGUEZ  ddominguez@indexjournal.com

South Carolina Council of MOAA

South Carolina Council of MOAA
South Carolina Council of MOAA

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