Robert W. Drake, 94, a longtime Findlay attorney and Standardbred owner, died at Birchaven Retirement Center on Thursday, April 12. Mr. Drake campaigned horses in Ohio for many years, including the notables Dark Secret, Kit Hanover and Preferred Time.
Mr. Drake was born Sept. 5, 1917, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., to Delos D. and Catherine B. (Loftus) Drake. He graduated from Findlay High School in 1935 and from Findlay College with a bachelor's degree in English in 1939. In college, Mr. Drake lettered in basketball and excelled with his brother Del on the varsity baseball teams that were coached by their father, a former outfielder for the Detroit Tigers. Mr. Drake was the leading hitter on the 1939 Findlay College team that compiled a 14-3 record, which included victories over the University of Toledo, Bowling Green and Kent State.
Following college, Mr. Drake taught English at St. John's High School in Lima in 1939-1940. While there he resurrected the varsity basketball program which had been discontinued four years earlier and led it to a winning record and the sectional finals in its first season. He left St. John's to teach and coach the varsity basketball team at Ft. Jennings High School in 1940-1941. His Ft. Jennings team also had a winning record, and lost in the district finals.
His coaching experience at St. John's and Ft. Jennings imbued in him a lifelong interest in high school basketball. He was a season ticketholder at Findlay High School basketball games for the past 64 years, and in 2003 was recognized by the Hancock County Sports Hall of Fame for his loyal support with its inaugural Fan in the Stands Award.
In September 1941, Mr. Drake resigned his positions at Ft. Jennings and enlisted in the U. S. Army Air Corps, eventually attaining the rank of captain. He was assigned to the Thirteenth Troop Carrier Squadron ("The Thirsty 13th”) as a pilot of C-47 transports. The squadron played a pivotal role in the Battle of Guadalcanal in November 1942. Hewas awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service at Guadalcanal, flying in fuel and supplies to the embattled Marine garrison there and ferrying out wounded soldiers. During his military service, he was awarded one oak leaf cluster to accompany the DFC, and the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters. He was recognized in 2004 as the Co-Veteran of the Year in Hancock County.
After his discharge from the service, Mr. Drake was a commercial airline pilot for TWA in 1945 before entering law school at Ohio Northern University. He earned his law degree in 1948 and began a 59-year career in private practice in Findlay before his retirement in 2007.
In addition to his long and distinguished legal career, Mr. Drakewas actively involved as a shareholder or partner in several local businesses, including Sportsman Lanes, Timber Lanes, and Hillcrest Golf Course and its adjacent real estate development.
He was also a part owner of scores of Standardbredsover a 35-year period, including Dark Secret, the winner of the Ohio Governor's Cup in 1973. Other top horses for Mr. Drake included Kit Hanover, Young Turk, Preferred Time, Little Master and Son Sum. Among his trainers over the years were Terry Holton, Gene Riegle, Carl Allen, Dan Ater and John Konesky III.
A 4th generation member of Elks Lodge No. 75 for 68 years, Mr. Drakeserved as its Exalted Ruler in 1953-1954. He was also a member of American Legion Post No. 3 for 66 years, the Findlay Exchange Club, and was the last charter member of Warbucks Investment Club. He was a member of the Findlay Country Club for 62 years, where he was golf's first switch-hitter, and a lifelong member of St. Michael Parish.
He was an avid fisherman and hunter, and organized fishing trips with friends to Canada for 54 consecutive years. He continued to hunt into his 80s.
Mr. Drake was noted for his indomitable work ethic, patriotism, love of Findlay, his loyalty to his family and friends, and his unique style of dealing with people and analyzing and solving problems.
His family wishes to expressits appreciation to the many caregivers who rendered exemplary care to him during the last five years of his life, particularly Anna Fugitt, Deanna Morton and Jayne Penney. In addition, his family will be forever grateful for the loyalty and acts of kindness of his many friends, particularly Judge Allan Davis, Bob Strathman, Jay Edel, Richard Wittenmyer, Lyle and Jane Feller, John and Margaret Rieker and Dave Kuenzli.
Mr. Drake is survived by his children, Angela Siefker, Thomas (Ann) and Frederick "Fritz” (Carol); grandchildren, Eric (Kristina) Siefker, Mary (Jake) Mullins, Elizabeth and Steven; and 19 nieces and nephews. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by histwo wives, Mary Elizabeth "Betty” Moran, whom he married on May 8, 1948, and Margaret A. Moran, whom he married on October 24, 1975; son, John; and brothers, Del Jr. and William.
Visitation will be from 2-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. on Sunday (April 15) at Kirkpatrick-Behnke Funeral Home. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10 a.m. on Monday (April 16) at St. Michael Catholic Church (Downtown), with Monsignor Michael Hohenbrink officiating. Burial will follow in St. Michael Cemetery, with military rites performed by the Hancock County Veterans Memorial Squad.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Warren and Peg Kirk Bell Scholarship Fund, c/o The Hancock Community Foundation; the Findlay High School Athletic Department; or to the St. Michael School Educational Foundation.