Obituaries » Elbert Oakley Drumheller, Jr.

The Funeral Mass for Oakley will be Thursday, May 19, 2022 at noon at St. Thomas More Roman Catholic Church, 3015 Roundelay Road, Lynchburg, VA 24502. Visitation with the family will begin at 11:00am.After Mass, there will be a luncheon in More Hall; please join us! If you are unable to attend, please watch the livestream/recording on the St. Thomas More Lynchburg Facebook page or by visiting www.stmva.org.

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Elbert Oakley Drumheller, Jr.

November 13, 1942 - May 14, 2022

On Saturday morning, May 14, 2022, Elbert Oakley Drumheller, Jr. left this world — quickly, quietly, painlessly, and quite unexpectedly, having just finished his third cup of coffee. He was 79 years old. Oakley was born in Richmond, VA on November 13, 1942, the first child and only son of the late Elbert Oakley Drumheller, Sr. and the late Evelyn Murray Drumheller. In addition to his parents, Oakley is predeceased by two of his sisters, Abby Eloise Drumheller and Candice Drumheller Baker. Oakley is survived by the love of his life, his wife of 35 years, Kathy, his sons, Scott Drumheller of Midlothian, VA and Devin Drumheller (Kara Trowell) of Brooklyn, NY and his daughter, Daron Hewitt (Ryan) of Mt. Juliet, TN. Oakley is also survived by his youngest sister, Sue Perry, of Powhatan. Oakley grew up in Highland Springs, VA, was a 1960 graduate of Highland Springs High School, and received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Virginia Military Academy in 1964. While a Keydet, Oakley was the Regimental Band drum major. He had fond memories of marching with the Corps of Cadets in the John F. Kennedy Inaugural Parade in January 1961. Following graduation, Oakley worked as a Project Engineer at American Machine & Foundry (AMF) in Richmond, VA until he was called to U.S. Army Basic Training at Fort Bliss, TX in April 1965.Oakley was stationed at Redstone Arsenal, AL where he worked in research and development at the Army Missile Command and was a project engineer for the first laser defense system. After an honorable discharge from the Army in 1967, Oakley was hired as a GE contractor at the Kennedy Space Center to help improve quality assurance for the Apollo program following the tragic, fatal Apollo fire. He worked in the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building from 1967 to1970, where he operated and maintained monitoring devices prior to and during launch, including pressure readings and other critical stuff on the spacecraft, landing module and the astronauts (including their biomedical readings). He wrote all the procedures for repairs, including how to splice a wire (they HAD to follow Oakley’s procedure!). In his position, he was present in the control room during the Apollo 13 mission crisis. While in Florida, Oakley earned a Masters Degree in Systems Management from the Florida Institute of Technology (Florida Tech).From Florida, Oakley went to the Army Management Engineering Training Agency at Rock Island Arsenal (in the middle of the Mississippi River) as an instructor in Systems Engineering. He and his colleagues developed all course materials for System Engineering, which in 1970 was a brand new Army program. To use the full scope of his management skills, Oakley became the innkeeper/general manager of the Holiday Inn Airport Sandston, VA, where he oversaw the construction and opening of the hotel. Three years later, Oakley returned to the Army, but as a civilian, at the Army’s Logistics Management School at Fort Lee, VA, where he developed a course to teach the Army’s automated engineering system. Fort Eustis was the next stop on Oakley’s career path. There, he worked for the Advanced Technology Lab, developing the Army’s rotary aircraft weaponization systems. From Fort Eustis, Oakley moved to Fort Monroe, VA, where he worked for the Training and Doctrine Command until 1996, when he and his family moved to Heidelberg, Germany and he served as Chief of Engineer Resource Management at Headquarters United States Army Europe. He returned to the United States in 1998 to become Chief of Engineering & Housing at Army Materiel Command in the D.C. area – despite swearing that he would NEVER live in Northern Virginia – and subsequently became the Facilities Engineer. Oakley loved his work. But when he didn’t, he retired. In 2005, with 36 years of combined active duty and civilian service to the United States Army, Oakley called it quits, and he and the family moved to Forest, VA to enjoy the good life. Oakley was a committed and dedicated family man. His favorite thing to do was spend time with his family (close second was drinking wine!). He loved his “sweet young thing,” his wife, Kathy, and his children, Scott, Devin, and Daron with all his being. He would do anything for any of them. When he was needed, he was there. He drove the kids to many sports practices, sat in all kinds of weather to cheer them on, encouraged their musical talents, and attended every performance of every type. He was their biggest cheerleader – sports, music, life! He was always proud of his kids! He was patient with them. He would drop everything to run them somewhere or run errands for them. He made sure his kids had what they needed and a lot of what they wanted because he loved them… of that there was never any doubt. Oakley said that the best job he ever had was that of “Dad”. In his diverse and storied life, Oakley was many things to many people: artist, art collector, art dealer, numbers man, bowler, golfer, connoisseur of hamburgers and hotdogs and coffee and wine and German pastries, owner/operator of Drumheller’s Ice Cream in Poquoson, Virginia, gardener, Master Gardener, Master Food Volunteer, owner of Blue Heron Art Gallery in Poquoson, Virginia, coin collector, Civil War relic hunter, baseball player, thembest-lemon-meringue-pie-maker ever, “Daddy D”, creator and purveyor of homemade canned goods so good they’d make you wanna slap yer mama, a fighter, a gentle spirit, believer, friend, boss, grill Meister, salesman, sax-clarinet-oboe player, Uncle Oakley, “Dad” to exchange students Morten, Constanze and Darinka, doggie daddy, beagle lover, and Kathy’s runner-muse-best friend-court jester! In every role, he was quick-witted, warm-hearted, loving and loved by others.Oakley converted to his Catholic faith. He was a charter member of St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Community of Poquoson/Tabb where he worked tirelessly to collect donations for the annual auction to benefit the church kitchen. At his most recent parish, St. Thomas More Catholic Church, Lynchburg, he was a member of the choir and provided Sunday morning hospitality. He was a quiet servant of our Lord. The Funeral Mass for Oakley will be Thursday, May 19, 2022 at noon at St. Thomas More Roman Catholic Church, 3015 Roundelay Road, Lynchburg, VA 24502. Visitation with the family will begin at 11:00am.After Mass, there will be a luncheon in More Hall; please join us! If you are unable to attend, please watch the livestream/recording on the St. Thomas More Lynchburg Facebook page or by visiting www.stmva.org.

Condolences & Tributes

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I am truly sorry for your loss, Kathy. Oakly was a wonderful soul, who helped me see humor in some of my darkest times. I know you will miss him terribly, but please know he will always be in your heart. Much love and strength to you.

Posted by Linda Esser on May 19, 2022

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