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DOWNEY - Kenneth Drake, a 32-year U.S. Navy veteran who served in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam, died Tuesday. He was 96.
Born in Idaho, he was the oldest of five boys, including two who died early of pneumonia. A third brother also saw service in the Navy but was killed two weeks before the end of WWII.
The family relocated to Downey in 1924 and Drake's father - a mechanic - opened his own business in Huntington Park in 1929.
Drake enlisted in the Navy at age 17 and was assigned to the USS Idaho. He retired in 1968 as chief aviation electrician mate, at the highest pay grade a retiring non-commissioned officer could attain in the Navy.
When his wife of 72 years, Norma, died three years ago, it was Gerinet Healthcare which provided hospice care. Drake initially agreed to volunteer 2-3 hours a week at the hospice facility but soon found himself working 10-hour days, not that he minded.
His chief responsibility was to fill orders for hospice supplies. He also supplied bereavement support duties when called upon.
Drake recently received special recognition for volunteering 7,200 hours at the hospice. He was the only hospice volunteer with his own office, and was often the first person at the facility to arrive and the last person to leave.
Drake, who was also a 50-year plus member of the Downey United Masonic Lodge, received several awards and recognitions for his service to his country but perhaps none bigger than the President's Volunteer Service Award.
The award reads, in part, "Your volunteer service demonstrates the kind of commitment to your community that moves America a step closer to its great promise. While government can open more opportunities for us to serve our communities, it is up to each of us to seize those opportunities. Thank you for your devotion to service and for doing all you can to shape a better tomorrow for our great Nation." It is signed by President Barack Obama.
Asked by the Patriot in a 2011 interview why he enjoyed volunteering so much, Drake replied, "I saw there was a need for the kind of service I could provide."
"Besides," he added, "I get a hundred hugs a day."
Published: Oct. 31, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 29