Aug. 11, 1936 – Dec. 26, 2018
Barbara A. Draper could craft almost anything from fabric. When relatives married, she sewed wedding gowns. When neighbors wanted window dressing, she fashioned drapes.
And when her oldest son, Darvan, wanted a fur coat just like the kind worn by professional sports stars Walt Frazier and Joe Namath, she sewed that, too.
“They were my idols in high school, and what does she go do but buy fake fur fabric and make me a floor-length fur coat that I wore for years,” recalled Draper.
Mrs. Draper, who sewed with passion, died Dec. 26 in Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Amherst, after a long illness. She was 82.
Born in Buffalo, an only child, the former Barbara Brock attended School 31 and Fosdick-Masten Park High School, where she learned how to sew.
She followed her sewing passion to New York City, where she entered the Traphagen School of Fashion.
It wasn’t long after graduation that she married Emmett Lawrence Draper and started a family. They were divorced after a short time, said Draper. As a boy growing up, he recalled his mother listening to James Brown and Ray Charles records as she sewed.
“She turned our basement into a sewing studio,” said Draper. “Instead of buying us clothes, she made them. She was so passionate about sewing.”
The mother of two boys, Mrs. Draper worked as a patternmaker for several companies, including Rugby Knitting Mills and M. Wile and Co., but in 1974 she decided to pursue a career as a sewing instructor.
She began classes at Erie Community College and earned a liberal arts degree in humanities. She then attended SUNY Buffalo State, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education.
“When she made up her mind to do something, she pursued it,” said Draper.
Mrs. Draper began teaching at Harkness Education Center in Cheektowaga as a commercial sewing instructor. She went on to teach in Buffalo schools and Buffalo Vocational Technical Center, as well as at St. Augustine Center for Living, BOCES Educational Center in Herkimer and the Buffalo Psychiatric Center.
In 1994, Mrs. Draper became a job service representative with the State Department of Labor, where she helped displaced workers find employment. She retired in 2003.
Through all this, Mrs. Draper pursued other interests, including traveling and cooking.
“She was far from a chef, but she wasn’t afraid to explore. She excelled at making stews and serving deep fried catfish and sea bass,” said Draper.
During the last 15 years of her life. Mrs Draper lived at Elderwood at Williamsville, where she cared more for others than herself, said her son.
“If someone had a birthday, she would spend her Bingo bucks on a gift or card at the Elderwood store,” Draper said. “If they didn’t have it, she'd call me and ask me to do it.”
Among all of the intangible gifts that Mrs. Draper passed on to her son, Draper said one stands out.
“She gave me mental toughness,” he said. “It was the strength that she taught me that got me through her illnesses. I visited her twice each day for the last four years. Strength helped me love my mother even more.”
In addition to her son, survivors include a daughter, Paula Thompson; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Services will begin at noon Thursday, Jan. 3, in Amigone Funeral Home, 1132 Delaware Ave.