Community Leaders, Friends and Colleagues Remember Thomas Draper - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Community Leaders, Friends and Colleagues Remember Thomas Draper

Posted: 09/08/2017 18:24:00 -04:00 Updated:

SUSSEX COUNTY, Del. - Thomas Draper's death is being felt deeply on Delmarva. From local leaders to childhood friends, people told WBOC that Mr. Draper's death is a big loss to the community.

"He's always been generous of his time for Milford, thinking what's the next step to move Milford forward," says Milford Mayor Bryan Shupe. "He wanted to make this a better place to live and he was always there for us."

Shupe says Draper's kindness stood out to him.

"I think what I enjoyed the most is he always had time for you. He was not only running WBOC but multiple businesses and had people far more important than me that he needed to talk to, but he always picked up the phone. "That will always be my memory. That no matter how busy, no matter how successful, he made time for individuals who wanted to aspire to do to do the things he did in his life."

Many people described Draper as a visionary.

"I always knew how much vision he had in news. We were able to talk about having a helicopter at a small market TV station. But that vision went so far beyond just making the news great here on delmarva," says Alice Bavis Rausch, former WBOC anchor and current Southern Region Strategy and Brand Program Manager at Bayhealth. "He wanted to improve our education system, he wanted to improve our health care system, and he had so much energy and excitement and passion about doing all those things."

Some of his business contemporaries said Draper's philanthropy paved the way.

"He always has been one of my mentors. I followed his career and wanted to duplicate many of the things he did," says Joseph Schell.  "His causes are some of my causes as well...all kinds of different things he's gotten involved in, I've gotten interested in because I know he's done his due diligence on those projects."

His philanthropy reached a number of organizations, including the Milton Fire Department.

"He was very supportive of the fire company. He always talked to us about what an awesome job we did as volunteers," says Chief J.R. Clark. "One of the things Mr. Draper did for the fire service was any time he bought a piece of property and it had a house on it, he made sure that we were aware that we could train on it."

Those who've known Mr. Draper forever say his character was resolute.

"Ever since I did his legal work, I was impressed with his integrity," says Justice Randy Holland, a retired justice for the Delaware Supreme Court and Draper's onetime lawyer. "When he bought WBOC, he did things for his employees he wasn't legally required to do because he thought it was the right thing to do."

Friends say his work ethic was matched by his compassion.

"Everything he did was larger than life whether it was growing a business, duck hunting, raising a family. [He was] very driven. Always pushing ahead to make progress--to make something bigger and better--along with a big heart," says Donnie Burris, a longtime family friend and CEO at Burris Logistics. "He cared about people. He cared about his friends. He was a very good friend to my dad and to me when my dad passed. He checked in on me regularly. That was seven years ago and I appreciate that aspect of Tom."

Some of Mr. Draper's childhood friends say success never phased him.

"He was just such an ordinary person," says Mimi Currie. "He had so much but yet when he was around us he was just one of the class. He was...Just Tommy."

Sussex County Councilman Rob Arlett describes Draper as a patriot.

"A piece of Delmarva has been taken from all of us this morning," he says. "So I feel the responsibility to carry on his legacy."

The crash that killed Mr. Draper remains under investigation. 


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