Service to celebrate Norman Drake: A popular figure in the Deddington community

A service to celebrate the life of Norman Drake will take place in Deddington on September 8.
Norman and Joy Drake lived in Deddington for a substantial part of their lives.Norman and Joy Drake lived in Deddington for a substantial part of their lives.
Norman and Joy Drake lived in Deddington for a substantial part of their lives.

The service at St Peter and St Paul Deddington Church will start at 2pm and there will be refreshments at Deddington Arms from 3pm until 5.30 pm.Because of Covid, like many people, Norman's family were not able to have the full church service for his funeral and the wake that he had planned.

So in order for his eulogy to be read and friends and family to celebrate and remember Norman, his family are holding a service of celebration.

The Cambrian Male Voice Choir will be performing at the service, travelling all the way from Norman’s home town of Tonypandy, Rhondda.

Norman and Joy Drake on their wedding day.Norman and Joy Drake on their wedding day.
Norman and Joy Drake on their wedding day.

The date of September 8 has been chosen as it would have been Norman and Joy's Diamond Wedding Anniversary.

Norman was born on April 27, 1939 in Clydach Vale in Rhondda valley, South Wales.

In his eulogy, his family described his 'happy childhood growing up in the valleys' although 'money was often tight'.

The family added: "As a seventeen-year-old dad saved a girl's life. He ran out into the road in Tonypandy to grab a toddler who had wandered out into the road. The girl's father, Peter Barrett, said he’d never forgotten dad when they met by chance at an event in Wales."

Norman Drake.Norman Drake.
Norman Drake.

Norman met his wife-to-be Joy in Singapore during his compulsory two-year National Service. They continued their long-distance romance via phone and letters, poems and gifts of recorded tapes.

Six months later, just as they had planned, Norman telephoned Joy on her 18th birthday at exactly 1 pm, the time of her birth and proposed. The couple married in the Tonypandy Saints Gabriel and Raphael Catholic Church on September 8, 1962.

They had their first child, Helen, in Caerleon while Norman was still at teacher training college. A year later 1966 Ashley was born in Jones Street, Tonypandy.

The Cambrian and the Aberfan disasters both happened around this time. Joy was always proud of the fact that Norman had volunteered to help with the digging, trying to help save the children of the stricken school.

Norman and his family moved away from his beloved valleys after securing a sales rep job with Rowntree’s and set up a home in Great Haywood in Staffordshire.

While still living in Staffordshire Ruth, and then two years later, Joanna were both born at home.

Norman then got a job with the prestigious publisher, John Murray, initially as an academic sales rep.

The Drake family moved quite soon after this new job role. Firstly to Banbury 1970 and then a couple of years later to Deddington 1972, where they purchased Corner House.

At the same time, Norman secured a new job in the same role at Blackwells Publishing before being promoted to sales manager and eventually becoming export and marketing director, a director of Marston Distribution and a director of Blackwell's bookshops, travelling to America and the Far East on business.

Norman agreed with Joy to establish their tea shop, and fulfil her dream. So by 1980, the shop belonging to Corner House became ‘Market House Tearooms’. Joy's chocolate fudge cake and shortbread were legendary and they got into Egon Ronay’s Good Food Guide for all three years they were open.

Norman left Blackwell's in 1987, and he and Joy both started and ran together their own Oxfordshire-based marketing company, ‘Drake Marketing Services, which later became Drake International Services.

After a few years of successfully building the business, Norman and Joy decided that it was time to call it a day and sold the business.

He then retired and was able to put his energies back into the tennis game that he adored, often playing three or four times a week.

Around 2004, Norman decided to do some voluntary work. Norman also took over the job of organising the Deddington local tennis players.

Friend Michael Richards was chairman of the Oxfordshire branch of SAAFA and Norman joined this armed services charity as a SAAFA representative visitor.

Norman managed to outlive Joy by just 13 months. Unfortunately at the end of his life he was taken ill and had to go into Banbury Hospital. On April 13 2020, Norman and Joy were reunited.

Aunty Diana, Joy’s sister has summed up her vivid memories of Norman, saying: 'He was fair, generous, took an interest in other people, gave up a lot of his time for others. He did a lot of good things around the village and would do anything for his family. He looked after Joy even more so at the end. Although so many people in the village wantedto share lifts and take Joy to the hospital visits, he said 'No' because he wanted to do it all, even when he was so ill himself.”

Friend Maureen Robinson said: “ I will always remember him often saying, ‘fair play’ even when he disagreed with you. He and Joy worked hard and achieved a lot. They are always in my heart and I still feel their presence in the village."

Deddington friend Mike O’Brien said he always looked for Norman’s company at drinks parties. He was a great wordsmith and was never boring. “I will miss his presence but the gap will be filled with memories which bring a smile.”

Norman was always very proud of his four children and his five grandchildren, who he loved dearly and would have done anything for them.

His children said: "We children owe so much to our dad who helped us throughout our lives. "Happy Heavenly 60th Diamond Wedding Anniversary to our wonderful, kind, funny and loving parents, Joy and Norman Drake."