Beloved Pastor Drake of Little Neck church dies at 56

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Paul Drake was all that a local pastor should be and more, members of his church said, but after five short years since arriving at the Community Church of Little Neck, Drake lost a battle with cancer and died last Thursday. He was 56.

Drake always had the spirit of a minister in his blood, according to his family, as he grew up in central Illinois, watching his father lead services in small churches. He went on to dedicate his life to small churches in Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and Indiana before landing in Little Neck five years ago.

His wife, Karen Drake, said he never missed an opportunity to bring others together.

“Paul worked hard to breathe new life into this church in Little Neck,” she said. “He’s done a wonderful job of that.”

Referring to him as a gentle yet fierce advocate for social justice, Karen Drake said her husband maintained a strong emphasis on community involvement and just wanted to bring everybody together. Since moving to New York, she said she and her husband quickly referred to Little Neck as their extended family.

“I think there was a mutual respect and love between our congregation and it reached beyond just the four walls of our church,” she said. “Paul fostered a strong relationship everywhere he went.”

His wife Karen, her two children, one granddaughter, his brother Jonathan and his aunt and uncle survive the pastor.

Daniel Lambruschi and his wife Lucille are members of the Little Neck congregation and said his leadership is what they will miss most about their pastor.

“In five short years, Paul touched so many people personally because he led by example. He was grace under fire,” Lucille Lambruschi said. “When the cancer started to ravage him, he never missed a sermon because he trusted God would give him the energy and the voice to carry out his mission.”

She said Pastor Drake’s dedication to the church was an inspiration for her, pushing her to match his dedication.

“I know when he got to where he was going afterwards, Jesus met him and said, ‘Good job,’” she said.

Daniel Lambruschi, a member of the church’s board of trustees, said the minister was a generous and influential resource.

“Every time you’d turn around, it’d be someone waiting to see Paul because he was always giving,” he said. “I watched him from a distance doing these things and he changed my life personally because I saw things I could be better at. I told him before he died how I felt he changed my life, and even then he was too humble.”

A memorial service is scheduled at the Community Church of Little Neck April 26 at 11 a.m., followed by a luncheon in the chapel hall. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the church or the International Council of Community Churches, an organization Drake worked closely with for much of his life.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Updated 10:28 am, April 19, 2012
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