Betty Jean Drake

Betty Jean Drake died peacefully at home on Tuesday, Sept. 4. Betty was born on June 29, 1924 in Pineville, KY to parents Leoma “Knee” and Thomas Hendrickson. She met, fell madly in love with, and married Earl Edward Drake after moving to Orange where they made a home for their four children. She was a longtime member of First United Methodist Church of Orange.

She was a prominent Orange business woman, who with her husband Earl, owned and operated One Hour Park Avenue Cleaners for many years. Betty, in her youth, was a wonderful nurse. She earned her nursing degree from Charleston General Hospital School of Nursing. As polio raged in America in the 1940’s, 4 cases developed in Orange. Nurse Elizabeth Kenny, (“Sister Kenny”) of Australia, who was played by Rosalind Russell in the movie about her life, had worked out a system of treatment for polio which was very controversial at the time. She advocated massage to “reawaken” paralyzed muscles. She traveled to America to teach at the University of West Virginia where Betty was one of her students.

There were only two nurses in this area who were trained to treat polio. They were also trained to operate the iron lung that breathed for polio patients. In case of electrical outage, the iron lung had to be pumped by hand and many times Betty or the late Ruby Coffin, did the job of operating the giant machine. One would pump for 2 hours and then the other would take over, sometimes through the night. Through the years, Betty used her nursing skills to help many patients, neighbors, friends and strangers.

A loving, fun and generous wife, mother, and grandmother she was bright and talented and an outstanding volunteer in the community. She was actively involved in her children’s activities throughout their school years and worked vigorously in the PTA. She was a patriot and dearly loved her country. She was also a hard working child advocate for the State of Texas and was part of Gov. Mark White’s Council of Volunteers. She gained a reputation as a dynamic speaker and lay expert in child abuse/neglect, child pornography and family violence.

She was allowed into Texas prisons in order to interview prisoners to learn their histories and the reasons they were abusers and found that 80% had been abused themselves. In 1982 she was featured in a two page story about her work and the Houston Post wrote a half page article on her in the fall of 1982. At her insistence, U.S. Senator John Tower of Texas sponsored a bill passed in the Senate proclaiming the week of June 6-12 that year as “National Child Abuse Prevention week”.

To encourage the success of public awareness in ’84-86, Texas Gov. Mark White awarded her, as a member of the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs”, working on behalf of children, a grant of $14,500.00. She was on the Governor’s Coordination Committee to Facilitate Organ Transplants. She was also a proud member of the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels and many other worthy organizations.

Betty was the one the family turned to for guidance and advice. Her family will always remember Christmases and special occasions at the Drake home as great celebrations of love and laughter, feasting, story telling, games and song. Her dear husband will remember her as a supportive and loving wife and friend. Betty Jean, Mother, Mama, Granny…. How we will miss you! We thank God for the gift of you. Your Loving Family

Betty was preceded in death by her beloved parents, Leoma (“Knee”) and Thomas Hendrickson and son, Stephen Earl Drake.

She is survived by her husband, Earl Edward Drake, sons, Tomalee Clay Drake, (Faye), Reginald Keith Drake (Sandy); and daughter Vicki Drake Brown (Frank). Grandchildren, Kevin Drake, (Tania) Christie Hale (Kevin), Emily Cooksey (Jesse), Brandon Curtis, Taylor Andrew Drake, Christian and Alexander Drake, Nicole Gustaffson (Bjorn), Adam and Lauren Drake; great grandchildren, Devyn Drake, Riley and Zachary Cooksey, Tyler Drake, Penelope Drake, Emberlee Hale and Atalyn Hale, and Zoe Gustaffson.

The family would like to thank her long time caregiver, Jean McDaniel for all her care and concern.

Friends are invited to a visitation from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 9, at Claybar Funeral Home in Orange. A private burial will be held on Monday with a memorial service announced at a later date.

Words of comfort may be posted at