Jackie Drews, 67: Teacher, world traveler, Olympics committee volunteer

Teaching was in Jackie Drews’ blood, and so was a love of travel. She was able to fully realize both those desires in her lifetime.

Mrs. Drews taught for 15 years at Nancy Creek Elementary in Chamblee, garnering ‘Teacher of the Year’ honors.

“She was a natural,” said husband, Norm Drews. “She respected the kids and didn’t talk down to them. She could throw a tight spiral football and danced with her kids.”

Jackie Drews, of Kennesaw, formerly of Tucker, died Monday after a five-year battle with breast cancer. She was 67. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at Mars Hill Presbyterian Church in Kennesaw.

The daughter of an Army colonel, Jackie Smith was born in Los Angeles and moved around a lot. The Smith family home was in Atlanta near her alma mater, Cross Keys High School. She attended University of Georgia for two years before marrying the first time. After divorcing, Mrs. Drews attended Georgia State University to complete her teaching degree. Around that time, she met Norm Drews through a mutual friend. She jumped at his suggestion to join him in volunteering with the Atlanta Organizing Committee to help the city capture the 1996 Olympics Games.

“We were just two regular people getting involved,” Mr. Drews said. In September 1990, they traveled to Tokyo with the Atlanta committee to lobby the International Olympics Committee. Mrs. Drews chaperoned a group of Atlanta children who went to Tokyo to "charm the IOC people," Mr. Drews recalled.

The Toyko trip cemented their relationship. When they married, he was 59 and retired from IBM, and Mrs. Drews was 47 and about to begin her teaching career after having worked as a paraprofessional.

“One thing we vowed was that we would build a history quickly and we wanted to see the world as much as we could,” Mr. Drews said.

He planned their trips. China, Europe, New Zealand, Hawaii, California and other western states were among their destinations.

“She would be willing to go anywhere,” he said. And Mrs. Drews rarely met a stranger. “She could make friends in a New York minute,” Mr. Drews said.

In 2004, they traveled to Australia, then on to South Africa and then flew home. “I was 73, had had heart surgery and both knees replaced, still we had a marvelous time. We lived it up to the best of our ability.”

Mrs. Drews was hit with the metastatic breast cancer diagnosis in January 2007. Still, they kept up their travels. “We fulfilled the dream that we had about packing as much life into as short a period as we could. We had no bucket list at the end and no regrets,” Mr. Drews said.

Nancy Redwine befriended Mrs. Drews in Sunday school class at Mars Hill Presbyterian five years ago and they drew close.

“She quietly went about her struggle,” with the cancer, Mrs. Redwine said. “People admired her for that. She was just a joy to be around.”

Mrs. Drews is also survived by two daughters, Cindy Barnes, of Kennesaw, and Jessica Shirley of Walton; and four grandchildren.

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