The Life of Irene Drew

Mrs. Irene, beloved resident of Winnwood Retirement Community

Irene Drew with one of her beautiful flower arrangements

Mrs. Irene was born on July 12, 1916, in Franklin, Kentucky. She was raised on the family farm with her older brother. As a young girl during the Great Depression, Irene was lucky enough to never go without food thanks to the farm, which was also a crucial resource for her surrounding neighbors, due to her father’s generosity. As a child, Irene spent her K-8 years in a one-room schoolhouse followed by a boarding school for grades 9-12. She attended college at Bowling Green Business University where she stayed up day and night to learn shorthand along with other secretarial skills. After graduating, she stayed close to home and worked for a local law firm for a couple of years before moving to our nation’s capital, Washington D.C., around 1939.


To work for the government, Irene had to pass the Civil Service Exam and then began working for the Navy in their Personnel Department on Constitution Avenue.  Shortly after WWII started, Irene transferred to the work in the Admiral’s Office. She eventually enjoyed the title of Private Secretary to both four-star Admiral John Henry Towers (known as the Father of Naval Aviation) and, after WWII was underway, for four-star Admiral John McCain Sr. (Senator John McCain’s grandfather).


After a few years in DC, Irene was transferred within the Navy to St. Simons, Georgia, where she worked at a Radar Training School. There her days were long, consumed taking shorthand and typing up her superior’s dictation on a manual typewriter. During this time she had met her husband, Kenyon Drew, who was residing in the same boarding home as her and working in Brunswick as a bookkeeper. They had one son Jimmy, who has given her one grandson (David) and one granddaughter (Mary Margaret), along with several great-grandchildren. After working with the Navy, she continued in her administrative career returning law firms and even had the opportunity to work for the American author Eugenia Price on one of her novels!

Painting by Irene Drew (St. Simons Island lighthouse)


After her husband’s death in 1978, Irene traveled overseas for the first time and toured the Holy Land, Egypt, and parts of Europe.  She also traveled all over the United States. She built her first brand new home on the island in 1992 and lived there until she moved to Marietta, Georgia, to be closer to her son.


Today, Irene enjoys her life living at Winnwood Retirement Community. She loves walking the grounds at Winnwood and painting the beautiful nature around her. She also puts together flower arrangements, which she shares with the staff and other residents. Irene enjoys all the activities and the social events.  She is a joy to have at Winnwood!


Interviewed by Bekah O’Connor, Winnwood Volunteer