Robert Drew

Robert Drew

ST. JOSEPH — Robert Nolan Drew, 79, of St. Joseph passed away surrounded by family and friends on Saturday (June 8, 2019) after complications from a surgery.

A celebration of life will be held in late July.

Bob was born July 31, 1939, in Chicago, to Iola Drew and was raised by his grandparents, Jay and Mamie Drew.

Bob was married to Karen McBratney (Huffman) from 1964-1979, and from this union came three children, Shannon Drew (Tammy), Kerry Burriss (Tab) and Molly Ann Dang (Khoi); and five grandchildren, Cheyenne Drew, Emma and Addie Buchanan and Matthew and Emily Dang.

Bob married Jolene, the love of his life, in 1985.

After graduating from Parker High School in Chicago, Bob spent two years on a full scholarship at the University of Illinois. He took a 10-year hiatus from higher education to work as a draftsman and layout designer. He finished his undergraduate degree and graduated with a master’s degree in education from the University of Illinois in 1972. During his years at the University of Illinois, he was awarded the U of I Varsity “I” for wheelchair sports. Bob was always an advocate for accessibility. His passion for barrier-free access to homes and public spaces throughout the community was constant. He always reminded everyone that being able-bodied is only temporary.

Beginning in 1972, Bob spent 28 years teaching vocational education at Urbana High School. When asked what he taught, his answer was always “students.” He implemented the house construction class entitled “The Project House” and an educational travel course called “Pathfinders,” through which many young lives were touched and redirected as Bob took students to Colorado, focusing on history, flora,

geography and physical fitness. He also participated in the 1985 NASA Teacher in Space program.

Bob’s interest in media may have begun when he won a car in a singing competition at age 18 on the Morris B. Sachs Amateur Hour on Chicago station WGN. At Urbana High School, he developed the first television production class that broadcasted hundreds of hours of Urbana High School events on the local cable television show “Tiger T.V.”

After retirement, “Bobby D” spent five years as a weekly DJ on WEFT, hosting The Monday Lunch Bunch Blues community radio broadcast.

Bob had a keen interest in genealogy. He was on a constant search for family history and connection. Yet, many of his “family” members shared no blood. If you were his friend, you were counted in that family.

He attempted to capture and hold many memories with his creative use of photography. By using photos he had taken and by restoring and preserving photos from long ago, he was able to bridge the gap from past to present.

St. Joseph’s social scene may be a bit quieter as it has lost one of its ham-baking/firework-shooting/margarita-making party hosts. He loved to entertain and cook for others. He was known for his baked hams, soups and pickled vegetables.

Bob wanted the world to be a more beautiful place, and he and Jolene shared their lovely garden with many friends and visitors.

​In addition to Jolene, his children and grandchildren, Bob is survived by his special cousins, Gene Buhrmester, Connie (Max) Peterson and Darlene (Dick) Barker; and cousin-in-law, Helen Buhrmester.

He was preceded in death by his cousin, Don Buhrmester.

Many may think of Bob’s “larger than life” voice, but his heart was larger. He truly wanted to help and love others. This was evident in one of his final wishes, which was to be an organ donor with the Gift of Hope organization.

The family thanks the dedicated medical staff who supported Bob over the past four months.

In lieu of other expressions of sympathy, please consider donating to Eastern Illinois Foodbank or other charitable organizations.

Freese Funeral Home, 302 E. Grand Ave., St. Joseph, is in charge arrangements.

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