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Longboat Key Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017 3 years ago

Longboat Key Obituaries: Oct. 26, 2017

Mary Elizabeth Roca, Jane Drake and Verna Lee Ferris died.
by: Katie Johns Community Editor

Mary Elizabeth Roca

Mary Elizabeth Roca, 75, of Brewster, Mass., died Oct. 16.

Mrs. Roca was born on Sept. 15, 1942, in Aurora, Ill., to Benjamin Franklin and Katherine Thelma Shirer. She graduated from Batavia High School in three years as salutatorian and attended North Central College, where she also graduated in three years summa cum laude. At North Central College, she majored in Spanish and political science. There, she also met her husband of 53 years, Ruben Alejandro Roca.

After graduation, Mrs. Roca taught in Illinois and Virginia. The Rocas moved to Washington, D.C., Falls Church, Va., and then Columbia, Md., where they lived for 32 years. In Maryland, Mrs. Roca was president of the PTA and booster clubs throughout her children’s schooling. She always attended their games, concerts, holidays and parties and would often bring her family and friends together at her home.

In 2004, she retired to Cape Cod, Mass., and Longboat Key, where she spent winters living next to her sister and best friend, Katherine J. Nothacker.

Mrs. Roca was a loyal Washington Redskins fan, an avid “Jeopardy!” viewer, crossworder and an Amazon aficionado. She loved to travel. She and her husband traveled the world, and Mrs. Roca especially enjoyed trips on the ocean liners Queen Mary and Queen Victoria.

Mrs. Roca is survived by her husband, Ruben; children R. Alexander Roca, Katherine Roca and Kristen Labbate; their spouses; five grandchildren; sister Katherine Nothacker; brother Bruce Shirer; 15 godchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to WeCan, 783 Route 28, Harwich Port, MA 02646, or Little Sisters of the Poor, St. Martin’s Home, 601 Maiden Choice Lane, Baltimore, MD 21228.


Jane Drake

Jane Drake, 93, of Gardner, Mass., died Oct. 18.

She was born on May 13, 1924, to Laura and William Snell in Clinton, Iowa.

In 1947, she graduated from Grinnell College as a voice major. She met her future husband, Jay, in 1948 while he was working for the DuPont Co. in Clinton, Mass. They married in Clinton on Dec. 18, 1948. After honeymooning in Cable, Wisc.,  they moved to Gardner, Mass. There, Mr. Drake joined his father in the family business, the Royal Steam Heater Co. During the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, Mrs. Drake was a homemaker. She did payroll and clerical work in the family business when the children were older. The Drakes enjoyed a social circle and broad civic engagement. They were avid skiers, golfers and tennis players. Mrs. Drake was a tremendous competitor who won her final singles title at Oak Hill Country Club in Fitchburg, Mass., at the age of 61.

Mrs. Drake was a passionate Boston sports fan. She was active in the First Congregational Church of Gardner as a member of the Diaconate and a soloist in the choir for many years. She served on many civic committees and boards, including the Heywood Hospital Aid committee, Baldwinville Nursing Home and PYC trustees. She was an officer of Lynde Hardware and had been a member of the former Gardner Boat Club and Gardner Chowder Club.

The Drakes traveled extensively. They frequently visited Mrs. Drake’s sister, Maxine, and her husband, Graham. They enjoyed many years of annual rituals including Harvard-Yale football games, summer stays at the Monomonock Inn in Caldwell, N.J., skiing at Sugarbush in Warren, Vt., and winter stays on Longboat Key.

Mrs. Drake was preceded in death by her husband, Harold [Jay] Drake Jr.; her parents; brother Robert; sister Maxine and their spouses.

She is survived by her four children, Jay Drake; Thomas Drake; Laurie Drake and David Drake; their spouses; four grandchildren; and numerous nieces, nephews and friends.

Memorial donations can be made to First Congregational Church, 28 Green St., Gardner, MA 01440, or to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 450 Brookline Ave., Boston, MA 02215.


Verna Lee Ferris

Verna Lee Ferris, 82, of Sarasota, died Oct. 12.

The youngest of Jewel McCann’s eight children, she was born in Birmingham, Ala. She trained to be a dancer, and at the age of 18, Mrs. Ferris embarked on a career that took her throughout the nation until she retired in her 30s.

She followed her late husband, Wilfred Ferris, to Longboat Key, where he managed the dining operations of the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort.

Mrs. Ferris founded Dance Discovery in Sarasota, where she taught fitness-inspired dancing.

She was preceded in death by her first husband, Wilfred.

She is survived by her husband, Victor Hazan.

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