Richard “Dick” Drake was born in American Falls, Idaho, July 21, 1919.
His dad was a doctor and his mom taught school. He had seven siblings, all of whom arrived at the pearly gates first, and hopefully are now showing him around the place.
He said his dad had a hard time making a living as a doctor in rural Idaho because nobody had any money and they all wanted to pay for his services with chickens, eggs or garden vegetables.
While attending the University of Washington, Dick’s older brother Don heard about an opportunity for their family to become caretaker of the Collins-Green Ranch on Whidbey Island. They took the job and Dick and his dad moved the first truckload from Idaho to the island in 1938. Dick stayed at the farm for three months by himself before his dad and the rest of his family made it back with the rest of their belongings.
Within a couple of years, Dick joined the Army Air-Corp in World War II. After going through basic training in Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, he was sent to train at Chennault Field, Tenn., and then on to China.
In China, he taught the Chinese aircraft ground school. He liked to tell the story of how his younger brother Tyke was already stationed in China when he arrived, and he managed to surprise him. They both served in China for a couple of years. During that time, Dick lived with monks at a monastery and collected some beautiful silk work. He enjoyed his military time and, as he got older, those stories became his favorite to retell. He always had a great memory and would often recall small details about his military time or just past adventures.
When he was discharged from the military, he worked for a time at Washelle Crematorium and Pay n’ Save store before being hired on for a career with Boeing. During his years with Boeing, one of the assignments he was sent on was to work on the missile sites in Montana.
He was married for a few years, but eventually divorced. Although he had two daughters, when his wife left him, she took the girls to Austria and he lost contact with them.
Many islanders may remember the Drake brothers for always inviting school kids to come down to the farm in the fall and press apples and pick out pumpkins. It was an annual event for many years, and a memory many of us still treasure. Islanders who were lucky enough to get to know the Drake boys would visit the farm and get a chance to see the great summer gardens and grape arbor they had. The boys were always happy to visit and had a gentle way about them that was calming to be around.
Dick eventually bought eight acres just a couple of miles up the road from the ranch, and lived there for many years. He had a big shop and was a collector of all kinds of stuff. When his brothers Tike and Bud died, his brother Don decided to move back to Idaho to be with their sister Peg, so after almost 60 years, he left the farm. There was a treasure trove of interesting things to be moved, and lots of stuff that was left behind. The boys all loved beach-combing, and their barns were filled with beach treasures, from buoys to boats and paddles and old signs. They were very frugal and recycled anything and everything they could. The barns were full of shelves and cabinets made from beach-combed lumber.
Dick’s favorite saying was “Nothin’ to worry about,” and he lived by those words. He had a gentle way about him and loved to tell stories. Once he got going on a story, he would start adding little details and his eyes would sparkle with the telling.
He was an avid reader, but only read non-fiction. He loved the National Geographic Book and had an extension collection that was donated to the library.
To honor his family and his commitment to education, a scholarship will be set up at South Whidbey High School (the Drake Family Foundation Scholarship).
He will be missed and his gentle ways will always be remembered and cherished. Rest in peace, dear friend.