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Debbera F.'s Story

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Debbera F. Drake-Rogers, 72, of Andover, Mass., loving wife of Robert C. Rogers, passed away peacefully on November 7, 2017, at Lawrence General Hospital. 
Deb Drake was born on June 4, 1945 in Pittsburgh, Pa. She was the daughter of the late Charles and Ruth (Wolf) Drake.
Deb grew up and attended public schools in Orchard Park, N.Y. She went on to graduate from Westminster College, received her Master’s Degree from University of Pittsburgh, and earned a certificate of advanced studies from the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University.
She enjoyed, cherished and nurtured a wide network of life long friends from her early days of elementary school, high school, and then college. Deb continued to cultivate many friendships during her varied professional careers as well, which started in Syracuse, N.Y., as an elementary school teacher. She then moved to the Pittsburgh area where she taught hearing impaired children for 10 years. In the early 80’s, after attending Harvard University, she worked for the Massachusetts Dept. of Social Services. Later in 1986 she became a residential realtor/broker in the Groveland and Andover, Mass., area. Working in real estate gave her the flexibility to support her stepson with his after school activities. When she became an employee of the Vinfen Corp. in Cambridge, Mass., she made good use of her real estate skills to acquire and lease residential property for handicapped people.
In 2007 shortly after being diagnosed with stage 4, breast cancer, Deb retired. The cancer spread to her right lung and into her brain. From the beginning she aggressively fought the disease and ultimately enrolled in a clinical trial of a drug called Olaparib. This experimental, genetically targeted drug, along with her innovative lifestyle, extraordinary courage and perseverance enabled Deb to live almost 11 years from her initial diagnosis. According to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, no other person with her diagnosis has lived this long. Deb’s encouraging response to the trial drug, Olaparib, was reported in the February 2013 edition of “More” magazine. Deb was interviewed in her home by CBS. Also her story was featured nationally on the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelly.
During the 11-year period of significant medical challenges, Deb continued giving to others. She was a member and officer of PEO (Philanthropic Educational Organization), which helps finance educational opportunities for women from around the world. She was an active member of Welcome Wagon. Another activity she enjoyed was helping Iraqi refugees resettle and adapt to life in America through the Merrimack Valley People for Peace organization. Deb followed many of the Iraqis on their path to American citizenship. Also during these 11 years, Deb did volunteer work at Mass General Hospital, helped deliver Meals on Wheels and traveled extensively through Europe with her husband.
Deb loved an active life. She enjoyed golf, tennis, ballroom dancing, hosting elegant and fun dinners in her home, reading, book groups, a women’s business group, church groups, Empty Nesters, attending theater and traveling with friends. With encouragement from her husband she became a long distance runner, completing many local road races including seven half-marathons.
Besides her husband, Deb leaves her stepson, Eric Rogers, his partner, Suzanne Morris of Lawrence, Mass.; brother, Kenneth, his wife, Shelley Drake; stepsister, Lisa Horlein; twin nephew and niece, Robert and Allison Drake, all of Buffalo, N.Y.; niece, Alison Fitzpatrick of Ocean, N.J.; as well as several grand nieces and nephews living in New York and New Jersey.
Deb was a longtime member of the North Parish Unitarian Universalist Church, 190 Academy Road, North Andover. A memorial service will be held on Dec. 9, 2017, at 10:30 a.m. A reception will follow. Family and friends are welcome to attend.
In lieu of flowers, tax-deductible donations can be made in memory of Deb to The P.E.O. Foundation, 3700 Grand Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50312; or Breast Cancer Center at Mass General Hospital (donate online at giving.massgeneral.org).
For additional information, please visit www.burkemagliozzi.com.
Published on  November 30, 2017
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