When Charles Drury, Sr. died Sept. 7, the world lost an example of a quiet benefactor, a vocal believer in the Catholic Church, a caring, a principled businessman and a family man with a wry sense of humor, embracing every moment with playfulness and joy.
Drury, who founded the Drury Hotels chain along with his brothers, was 92. A statement from the company said “he lived his life by focusing on faith, family and business.”
Msgr. William McCumber acknowledged sorrow and grief upon Drury’s death and also recalled happy memories of knowing him and his family for 32 years. They met when Msgr. McCumber was assigned to the Basilica of St. Louis, King of France (Old Cathedral) Parish. With a smile, the priest recalled one Sunday after Mass when Drury commented that “Father, that was a good homily, but you know, on the farm if there’s one horse in the corral, we’d never give it a whole bale of hay.”
The homily wasn’t about horses. It was Drury’s way of saying the homily was a little too long.
Now senior associate pastor of Assumption Parish in O’Fallon, Msgr. McCumber celebrated Drury’s funeral Mass Sept. 11 at the Old Cathedral where he gave a homily and told of memories of his friend, who was a parishioner there.
Msgr. McCumber said Drury “made no bones about his faith. He was not afraid to engage in conversation with anyone about his faith and what he believed in.”
Prayer and faith come to mind when thinking of Drury and his wife, Shirley, Msgr. McCumber said. Drury’s achievements in business, education and humanitarian efforts are admirable but what’s lasting is the importance he placed on faith, the Mass and family, Msgr. McCumber said. “In many ways, he mirrored that person of Christ.”
He noted that Drury and his wife passed that faith and insistence on caring for others on to their family, friends and acquaintances.
Drury wanted to make sure temporary lodging for “pilgrims passing through” had a memorable stay, as if a family member was staying with them, Msgr. McCumber said. “The Church is our temporary housing while we are here on earth. We are but passing through,” he said, later citing the Gospel reading at Mass and the comfort that “Christ Himself is building a place for us.”
Drury wrote a book that he gave his family, “Don’t Get Kicked by the Same Mule Twice and Other Lessons from Kelso University.” It opened with a lesson from the Baltimore Catechism, explaining why God made us: “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.”
The book, with a reference to Kelso, Mo., where he was raised, explored two phases of his life: one of poverty and one of abundance, stressing the priorities of faith, family and work. “Religion was a very important part of mom and dad’s life,” his oldest son Chuck said, noting that the family prayed together at every meal and before bedtime and never missed Sunday Mass.
At age 12, Chuck Drury and his six siblings received a packet of parish contribution envelopes and were required to put 10 percent of any allowance they earned from working on their farm in the collection basket.
“Dad’s purpose was to teach us that there is more joy in giving than receiving. I know that was his goal his entire life,” Chuck Drury said.
He added that his parents were exceedingly generous with their time and talent and went through great lengths to make sure no one knew it was them who made a significant donation to help a cause or family in need. “Dad and mom lived their faith through their example to us,” he said, adding that they cared for each other also in a special way as they did with everyone they met.
Chuck Drury also listed the many activities his parents did with their children, many of them simple outings.
As a businessman, his father also lived by his principles and values, Chuck Drury said. He taught values such as hard work, honesty, integrity, empathy, compassion, humility and generosity with time and money, giving until it hurts. A saying his dad used was to “keep Jesus in your heart and always an eye toward heaven.”
Involvement in the Church
Drury and his wife were presented the Order of Saint Louis King award from the Archdiocese of St. Louis on July 27. The award honored their involvement in the Church and the support of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, Catholic education, the Rural Parish Clinic, Today and Tomorrow Educational Foundation, Annual Catholic Appeal and many other archdiocesan initiatives. They were honored last year by Marygrove, a Catholic Charities of St. Louis agency, for their commitment to youth in need. In 2013, Drury, his wife, and Don Musick led fundraising for an extensive renovation of the Old Cathedral.
Joe Bestgen, CEO of Marygrove, said that Drury "lived the gospel as recounted in Matthew 25:40; 'whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.' He cared for his fellow man; feeding, clothing and sheltering them in their times of need. He was the heart and hands of Christ to so many here in our community."
Drury’s father, Lambert Drury, started the family plastering business with his sons after the family farm was nearly lost in the Depression. It led Drury and his brothers into the hospitality industry. In 1973, they built the first Drury Inn in Sikeston.
>> Caring for others
“Let everyone admire how you care for one another, and how you encourage and accompany one another …”
Msgr. William McCumber, reflecting on the late Charles Drury’s life and quoting Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel” (99).
Msgr. McCumber said the legacy of Drury and his wife, Shirley, who survives him, is as “people who live their faith, willing to share that faith and encourage and accompany people in their faith.”