By Ralphine Major
In 1972, I am not sure I had even heard of a meteorologist, though we did have weather forecasters on the evening news. For snow predictions, Gibbs High School students could count on someone else. We had Mr. Drafts! Joe Drafts was the World Geography teacher at our small, rural school. I can picture him, briefcase in hand, walking into the classroom. His tall, lean frame moved with military precision. In anticipation of school closing, word would spread quickly through the school when Mr. Drafts predicted snow.
Though he had served 20 years in the United States Air Force with some of that time in Vietnam, Mr. Drafts died before he had a chance to retire. The beloved teacher was only 45 years old when a heart attack claimed his life. The family man left behind his wife, Margaret (Maggie), a registered nurse, and their two young sons, John-Martin and Justin. Several years ago, I connected with his family at church. It has been a joy to know them and watch his two lovely granddaughters grow up. Olivia is a freshman engineering major in college, and Amelia is an eighth grade cheerleader. Daughter-in-law Natalie is also a teacher. Mr. Drafts would be so proud of his family today!
January 23rd marked the 35th anniversary of the popular teacher’s death. Maggie shared with me that on the Friday before, school was canceled because of ice. Drafts made his way to Gibbs and wrote quiz questions on the chalkboard, then pulled the maps down over them. He was ready for Monday morning. But, late Saturday night, Joe Drafts passed away suddenly. On Sunday, the principal visited the family and asked Maggie if Mr. Drafts had his class records up to date. With the teacher’s military background and work ethic, they certainly were! Joe Drafts was very involved in the school’s fall concert directed by the late Jerry Reeves. A song based on scripture was performed during the concert, and that same inspirational song was heard at Joe’s funeral. “It was beautiful,” Maggie said. Those comforting words are found in John 14:27 (KJV): “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”