Older, Wiser and Just as Feisty: Janie Drake

Born in 1918 and nicknamed Janie by her dad at birth (Jeannette was too big of a name for such a little girl!), our resident centenarian says that she has had a truly wonderful life.  Shaw-Hall-350w 

Jeannette “Janie” Krieg Drake was born over 100 years ago in Newark, Ohio, and has deep family roots in this area. Her grandfather owned a local hardware store on the square in downtown Newark. Janie’s dad started his career at the new Park National Bank but in 1913, her grandfather was diagnosed with cancer and begged his son-in-law to come into the family business to keep it running, which he did for over 50 years. After her husband’s death, Janie’s grandmother did not want to live alone in the big house on Hudson Avenue, so Janie’s parents moved in with grandma … and spent the rest of their lives there.

Janie loved the outdoors and was very involved in Scouting, going to camp for many years and earning her first-class badge at age 12. Then in junior high she discovered sports! A swimmer who aspired to become a diver, Janie spent “half her life” in water; she had her lifesaving badge early. And although Janie was small, under 100 pounds and not a natural athlete, she became a guard on the girls’ basketball team and played for both the “lightweights” and the regular team — even earning a letter!

Her mom died of cancer near Janie’s high school years. Janie attended Denison University as her mother had done, where she joined Kappa Kappa Gamma, which was an outgrowth of her mom’s sorority. During this time period, her older brother finished his graduate studies and became a foreign service officer with the U.S. State Department, posted in Stuttgart, Germany. Between her junior and senior years at Denison University, Janie’s dad planned a trip for her to visit her brother. It was 1939, and she went with other young people, traveling in a group from Columbus all over England, Belgium and France before arriving in Germany.

Glam-350wShe had a frighteningly memorable experience when the German secret police called in her diplomat brother for questioning about their visit together; she hadn’t realized the police were watching them the whole time! Janie recalls how “the German youth were so crazy about Hitler.” Fortunately, both Janie and her brother had returned to the United States by September 1939, when the United Kingdom and France declared war on Germany.

During her final year at Denison University in 1940, the new residential dormitory Shaw Hall opened … and senior girls (including Janie) were given first choice to pick their rooms. After Denison graduation, Janie studied at Traphagen School of Design in New York City. While living there, she met and married Norman Drake from Waco, Texas, who had been drafted into the Army Signal Corp. For two years they were stationed in various parts of this country, and their first child, Barbara, was born in Seattle, Washington. When he was sent to the Philippines Norman wanted Janie and Barbara to be with his mother in Waco. While living in Texas, Janie had a professional photographer take photos of her and baby Barbara, as well as a “glamorous pose,” which she sent overseas to Norman.

After the war, Norman became established in the textbook industry. Together, they raised three children: Barbara, Lawrence and Robert. Norman was offered a job with Charles E. Merrill Publishing of Columbus, Ohio, to be their national sales manager. This job brought them back to Granville, Ohio, after 20 years! Norman held many positions with Merrill Publishing and retired as vice president of the high school division.

Den-mother-500wJanie was always very involved in their local community. Janie taught kindergarten in Granville, then spent 11 years working with disabled students in the Starlight School in Newark, Ohio. Among other things, Janie served as a Girl Scout leader for Barbara, and then Den Mother for her sons’ Boy Scout Troops. She and Norman were in the church choir. He was a trained singer with a beautiful voice, and Janie sang soprano in the First Presbyterian church choir for over 30 years. She served on the board for both ARC of Licking County and at Moundbuilders Guidance Center for many years.

Tea-party-350wWidowed at age 60, Janie knew from the first meeting with the Hellers and Richards that this is where she wanted to live. Janie recalls, “My father had been ill for two years, and it was hard to find care … in fact, when they finally had found a nursing home, he ran away!” Janie did not want her children to deal with this; plus, she wanted to make her own decisions regarding her health and lifestyle. So, the full continuing care concept of the Kendal at Granville community was very appealing. Among the initial charter residents, Janie was President for one year on the first elected Council of the Kendal at Granville Residents’ Association.

Still a vibrant force, Janie Drake has an indomitable spirit and generous heart; she is beloved by staff and residents alike … and many of us will honestly tell you, “I want to be like Janie when I grow up!”


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