Virginia Sue Winningham Drake, beloved mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, passed away surrounded by family in the early morning on July 11th, 2021. She was 98 years old.
Sue was born October 9th, 1922, to Alida (Bogan) and Neal Winningham, in Colby, Kansas, one of an eventual eight children. As a young girl, she and her siblings, along with their mother, followed their father to California in the aftermath of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression.
Throughout her life, Sue was an avid singer, performing lead roles in operettas and musicals, including the role of Buttercup in “H.M.S. Pinafore” by Gilbert and Sullivan as a young girl. She sang with the Cal Poly Symphonettes, and in various chorales.
Sue attended Eagle Rock High School in northeast Los Angeles, graduating in the class of 1940. It was there she met her sweetheart and future husband, Robert “Bob” Warren Drake. He called her “Kitten.” While she was encouraged to pursue a professional musical career by her mentors, she found true happiness with Bob, and they were married in April of 1942. They enjoyed days on the beach and nights on the town with friends. Together they danced to swing in the ballrooms of Los Angeles, including to Benny Goodman at the Hollywood Palladium on Sunset Boulevard.
Not long after Sue and Bob were married, the Second World War struck. While her husband served in the Army Air Corps as a pilot, flying transports in China, India, and Burma, Sue worked to support war efforts, and brought their first daughter, Susan, into the world. Together, Bob and Sue would go on to have two more children: another daughter, Elaine, and a son, Wayne.
Following the war, her husband studied animal husbandry at Cal Poly, and the Drakes became farmers. In the 1950’s, Sue and Bob moved to a ranch near Litchfield Park, Arizona, to cultivate cotton and raise their young family. Sue raised an imaginative and active family who had many adventures. While she never considered herself much of a cook, she enjoyed sewing, and made her children’s clothes by hand for many years. Together with her children, she took many horseback rides on her mare, Dolly, to chase the Arizona sunrise.
In the mid-1960’s, Sue and Bob relocated to Fairfield, Washington, to farm wheat. Upon retiring from farming, Sue and Bob lived in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho. She was always Bob’s first mate on his sailboat, The Hawkfin, and on all his other various, sail boats, speed boats, and fishing boats, as they enjoyed adventures together on rivers, lakes and oceans all over the West, from the Puget sound, to the Caribbean, from Lakes Tahoe and Havasu, Powel, Coeur d’ Alene, and Pend Oreille. She was always ready for a cruise, race, fishing trip, or a waterskiing trip.
Sue and her husband also enjoyed playing golf. He could out drive her, but she was a good putter, and often got the better of him on the green. Winter meant snow skiing. This couple worked hard but knew how to have fun.
Sue lost her husband Bob in 2006, and her daughter, Elaine, in 2014, after which she moved to Palouse, Washington, to be closer to her surviving family. Always independent and spirited, she kept her own house throughout her life, though she enjoyed the frequent company of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.
Sue was a lifelong lover of music, art, theatre, and golden-era film. She was a singer, and an artist. Her beautiful oil paintings of rural life and nature will be cherished by family for years to come. Sue loved cats, particularly her dear cat Judy, and was an avid collector of antiques. She loved to play gin and was 27 points ahead when she concluded her last game with the familiar chime of “and then I’ll say gin.”
Sue is preceded in death by her husband, Robert Warren “Bob” Drake, and her daughter, Elaine (John) Schieche. She is survived by her daughter Susan (Richard) Akin of Palouse, Wayne (JoAnn) Drake of Rosalia, and many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
An open house, featuring photographs and memories preserved throughout Sue’s life, will be held the afternoon of Saturday, July 17, 2021, 2-4 p.m., at 215 N. Beech St. in Palouse, Washington, for friends and family wishing to remember Sue, and the many warm memories she bestowed upon us in her lifetime.
Kramer Funeral Home of Palouse, Washington is caring for the family. On line condolences may be left at www.kramercares.com
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