William Thomas ‘Billy’ Drew, 80, 3-time Southport Fire Department Firefighter of the Year

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William Thomas "Billy" Drew
William Thomas “Billy” Drew

William Thomas “Billy” Drew, of Southport, died Friday, Aug. 21, 2015, surrounded by his loving family. He was 80.

He was born on Sept. 13, 1934, in Southport, to Charles Byron and Ola Lewis Drew.

Billy was raised during a time in Southport when everyone knew their neighbor and were related to each other. He said, “If you got paddled at school, every mother in Southport knew it, and you got another one when you got home.” It was a time when everyone in town was related or you called them aunt or uncle from respect. Many of the streets were still dirt or covered in oyster shells. Billy attended Southport High School and dearly loved his hometown very much.

Billy Drew met the love of his life among friends, a beautiful young lady named Mary Elizabeth Poole, and they were married on July 26, 1953. They shared a wonderful marriage together for 60 years, establishing their home in the Jabbertown Road Community. To this union, they raised four children, Charles Thomas, William Russell (Rusty), Ronald Lee and Judith Devel.

Billy began his career in the early 1950s working for various construction firms in Southport and Kiwannee, Wisconsin for a short period of time. In 1955, he became employed by the Sunny Point Stevedore Contractors until November 1957, at which time he became a government employee.

He worked over 50 years for the International Longshoreman’s Association Local # 1968 as a mechanic at the Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point. Billy Drew was a very hard worker and hated laziness; his 50-plus years of work ethic stands as a valuable legacy to his family.

Billy was not only a mechanic, he was a master craftsman and could build anything he looked at without a pattern. He built and crafted many clocks, lamps, tables, shelves, bookcases and many other items for family and friends.

He was also involved in coaching little league baseball to many Southport youth and was involved with coaching softball. He was a member of the Southport Jaycees, assisting with many community functions.

In 1953, Drew joined the Southport Fire Department. He spent the next 48 years giving loyal and courageous dedication to the department. He was a recipient of the Southport Fire Department Firefighter of the Year award three times. He was voted on by his peers and moved up in the rank structure, first as a lieutenant, then a captain and finally serving many years as the assistant chief of the department.

Chief Drew brought camaraderie, loyalty, courage and many other skills to the department. In 1981, he was given a heroism award for saving an elderly invalid from a burning structure fire on a very cold winter night. Due to severe sickness of his spouse, Chief Drew retired from the Southport Fire Department in 2000. His family has continued the tradition in the fire service, with four generations of firefighters in his family.

In May 2014, Billy’s high school sweetheart and the love of his life died after many years of extended sickness. Billy Drew had truly been a living example of his wedding vows “in sickness and in health,” for he was a wonderful caregiver to his wife. He worked tirelessly to provide the best of care after his wife suffered a stroke and was sick for 16 years. Billy and Mary are now reunited again, forever.

Billy and his wife Mary were saved in the late 1990s and became members of Southport Baptist Church.

He was preceded in death by his parents; wife; brother, Charles Augustus Drew; sisters, Lillie Mae Beck, Luola Eason, Patricia Fairfax and Arabella Lewis; grandson, Baby Boy Drew; and dear friends, Tebo Rogers and Dickie Marlow.

He leaves behind to cherish his memory and continue his legacy his sons, Charles T. (Stephanie) Drew, of Supply, Rusty Drew, of Southport and Ronnie (Stephanie) Drew, of Winnabow; daughter, Judy (Chris) Willetts, of Bolivia; sisters, Laura Lee (Wayne) Ludlum, of Southport and Betty Jean Morris, of Georgia; sister-in-law, Barbara (James) Sellers, of Southport; grandchildren, Charles Anthony, Sarah, Julie, Lee, Tiffany, Jessica, Leigh Anne, Kristina, Stephen, Brent and Tonya; great-grandchildren, Kayla, Charles Madison, Hannah, Ryan, Tyler, Kina, Ty, Larie, Abigail, Cody, Beth, Molly, Caitlyn, Levi and Kendal; and wonderful caregivers, Francis Stocks Padgett and Juanita Jones.

Services to celebrate and honor Billy’s life will be held at 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 24, 2015, at Southport Fire Headquarters, 1011 N Howe St., Southport, with Pastor Charles A. Drew officiating. Full firefighter rites will be given. Interment will follow at Northwood Cemetery. The family will receive friends at the home.

Active pallbearers will be officers of the Southport Fire Department, Assistant Chief Todd Coring, Captain R. Treadway, Captain C. Thomas, Lt. V. Sasser, Lt. J. Bullard and Firefighter M. Drew. Honorary pallbearers will be Roger Harrington, Bonner Stiller, Tim Stiller, Larry Eason, Charles E. Lewis, Davis Brown, Charlie Miller and Kem “PP” Frink.

The Drew family wishes to thank all of their family, neighbors and friends for all of your acts of kindness during Billy’s time of sickness. He has fought the good fight and finished the race.

Please leave online condolences for the family at Peacock – Newnam and White Funeral and Cremation Service.

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