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Nellie Drake

March 16, 1955 - October 14, 2015
Livonia, MI



Tuesday, October 27, 2015
11:00 AM EDT
St Genevieve - St Maurice Parish
29015 Jamison
Livonia, MI 48154
(734) 427-5220

In state 10:00 am until Mass begins

Life Story / Obituary


In the hearts of those who knew and loved her, there wasn’t anyone quite like Nellie Drake. Her bright smile warmed the hearts of many, and her knowing eyes conveyed unlimited loving kindness. With an unending servant’s heart, Nellie lovingly nurtured with goodness, compassion and grace. She truly exemplified the fruits of the spirit as a woman of faith, and will be deeply missed by those she touched with ways all her own.

The decade of the “Nifty Fifties” was an enlightening time for America. Innovations and technology were growing at a rapid rate and Rock n’ Roll was here to stay. Political changes were on the rise, and the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement made for positive changes for years to come. In the bustling city of Detroit, Michigan, March 16, 1955 marked an especially memorable day for Jose Oxholm and Judith Villafane Collazo when they celebrated the birth of their daughter, Nellie Ann.

Having grown up in Detroit where the Oxholm family made their home, Nellie was lovingly raised by her father and stepmother, Alicia with whom she had a loving relationship. She grew up alongside her six siblings, and from her earliest years she was a respectful and obedient little girl. Nellie attended Burgess Elementary School and Taft Middle School. Quite studious during her youth, she excelled in her studies. She enjoyed the friendships of several close friends, and as a teen she loved roller skating at Northland Skating Rink. After graduating from Henry Ford High School, Nellie furthered her education at Madonna University where she learned her lifelong profession of nursing. Ever dedicated in providing compassionate care for her patients, caring for others was second nature for Nellie.

On June 7, 1976, a young man named Leonard “Lenny” Drake set out to pick up his friend, Nancy for dinner. Since Nancy had injured her back and was unable to join him, she suggested he take her new roommate, Nellie, instead. One look at Nellie and he exclaimed, “Wow, its okay with me”. That very dinner date was the beginning of a wonderful relationship and on May 23, 1983, Nellie and Lenny were happily married at the courthouse in Farmington, Michigan. For nearly 40 years, Nellie and Lenny shared a deep, abiding love through all that life brought their way.

In 1987 Nellie and Lenny moved to Livonia. One of the greatest blessings they shared as a couple was the birth of their daughter, Lena. Nellie was a devoted and loving mother to her, and a caring and supportive aunt to Delbert, Duvan, Darcy, and Francesca, Alicia, Cristina, Cristino, Vince, Isabela, Alejandro, Sebastian, Victor, and Maxima. She always had special treats and surprises for the kids, and she loved reading them stories. They sought her wise counsel, and Nellie was proud to know a few of them followed in her footsteps in the medical profession. Affectionately known as aunt “Titi” Nellie, there wasn’t anything she wouldn’t do for her beloved daughter, and her dear nieces and nephews.

Through the years Nellie enjoyed vacations with her family to Niagara Falls and visiting Huckleberry Railroad. She enjoyed traveling to visit family, especially those in Puerto Rico. Her last trip there earlier in April was particularly meaningful for Nellie when the town of Guayanilla dedicated a library in her father’s memory. Nellie was so happy to be a part of this celebration and took much pride in the moment. While in Puerto Rico, Nellie loved visiting with her aunts and eating typical foods of the island, especially the tropical fruit and ice cream!

Nellie was very talented and loved crafting. Through embroidering, knitting, and making Christmas ornaments, she always used her crafts for the benefit of others. She was a part of the organization, Warm Up America which found her knitting squares to be put together and used for blankets. She also made flannel blankets for the homeless, knitted caps for newborns in the hospital, and knitted scarves for children in Africa. Even in the last months of her life, Nellie encouraged her nieces and nephews to be creative and use their own talents for good by showing many of them how to knit, even Vince!

The holidays were especially festive for Nellie. She was always involved in the holiday celebrations, and her delicious crescent rolls and applesauce cookies were simply the best. In her free time, she was an avid Detroit Tigers fan, and she loved kidding around with Lenny. She also loved listening to the music of Juan Luis Guerra and Michael Buble. During her illness she loved watching Two and a Half Men and 2 Broke Girls, and had a desire to laugh rather than cry. Nellie liked watching movies and enjoyed many hours of fun along with her husband, family and friends.

The ways which Nellie gave of her time and talents were merely matters of the heart to her. Taking care of others was in her nature, and she did so with genuine compassion. Nellie was a loving and generous daughter to her, Papa. When her father had been working multiple part-time jobs in later years to make ends meet, she told him to quit each of them because she would help him with his expenses. Nellie helped her Papa in numerous ways, and was especially careful to keep the grass cut as he liked, often spending hours driving the mower around his property.

Nellie was not only a nurse in her profession, but a nurse to her family. She always had a home remedy for any ailment, and particular about her own diet, she was a believer in natural remedies. When it came to new babies in the family, Nellie was gentle and loving. She was right there to help advise the new moms how to properly care for their newborns, and taught them helpful nursing techniques. In fact, she gave most of her nieces and nephews their first baths.

Family or friend, Nellie always made time for others. She was a wonderful companion to her stepmother Chachu. Nellie often took her to the farm in Albion where she helped with chores. They also had great fun shopping in Marshall and eating ice cream. When Chachu was released from the hospital after surgery, Nellie took her into her home where she lovingly cared for her, bathing and tending to her wounds. Nellie conveyed equal love and care with her other friends, as well. They had much fun together, shared their lives, and Nellie always took a special interest in their children. She helped them through illnesses, and when she needed them the most, they were special sisters-of-the-heart to her.

Nellie’s servant’s heart was not limited to the people in her life. She absolutely loved animals, and she had some memorable pets over the years including Butkis, a massive St. Bernard she rescued from the streets of Detroit. She helped heal a baby sparrow abandoned by its mother, took Leo the cat in, and she trained her rabbit, Thumper to make its own bed. When her niece lost her retainer, Nellie even helped her go through the trash, and they found it! Her gentle and giving nature seemed limitless. Like an angel, she was always helping people and animals, yet near the end of her illness, Nellie felt helpless that she could not help others, or herself.

Never one to be the center of attention, Nellie was a humble, warmhearted woman whose greatest joy was found in serving others. Devout to her Catholic faith, she attended church regularly and was ever faithful to her loving God. Nellie smiled from the heart and radiated goodness to all around her. She enlightened many in ways only she could, and now a treasure in heaven, her legacy continues forevermore.

Nellie Ann Drake, age 60, passed away on Wednesday, October 14, 2015, following a three year battle with cancer. The beloved wife of 32 years to Leonard; loving mother of Lena; dearest sister to Judy, Maria, Teresa, Nilda, and Jose Oxholm, and John Cope; cherished aunt to many nieces and nephews. A memorial Mass will be held on Tuesday, October 27, 2015, 11:00 am with visitation beginning at 10:00 am at St. Genevieve-Maurice Parish, 29015 Jamison, Livonia, (East of Middlebelt). To share a favorite memory and/or photo of Nellie and to sign her online guestbook, please visit www.turowskilifestory.com.