Leon Eugene Drew, an insurance investigator who solved colorful fraud cases, died peacefully at home in Metairie on January 25. He was 90. Leon worked for nearly 40 years at Retail Credit and then Equifax after the company’s name changed, checking out the veracity of claims throughout Southeast Louisiana. In one memorable case, he was watching TV when he saw a man who had claimed to be totally disabled dancing in a second line on a Popeyes commercial. He also saved a life insurer from having to pay someone who had taken out policies on three men who had died in rapid succession. It seemed odd that the man was not related to any of them and had listed the same occupation--“sittin’ and waitin’”--for all three. And when Leon checked into their names, he found out why: they had all just been executed after sitting for years on death-row at Angola.
Leon was born on a farm in Harrah, Oklahoma, one of the dust bowl towns mentioned in the Grapes of Wrath. His mom had to auction off the farm after his father died, and Leon enlisted in the Air Force. While serving at the Keesler base in Biloxi, he met his bride-to-be, Helen Lea Stevens, on a weekend trip to New Orleans. He finished his service duty in Arizona, and he and Helen returned to New Orleans, where they raised their three children, Cynthia A. Drew, Christopher Drew and Laura Drew Bussey.
Leon was a devoted husband and father, a kind man who always had a youthful look and a twinkle in his eye. He loved woodworking—building furniture and even a swing set for his grandchildren, Chelsea Bussey and Celia Drew, and great-grandchild, Connor Bussey—and tinkering with his cars. He loved underdogs and rooted for both Tulane and the Saints. He attended the first Saints game, cheering when John Gilliam returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown, and stuck with them as they slid downhill as the ‘Aints before finally winning the Super Bowl.
He also saved some of his most shining moments for his later years. He’d once given Helen a business card that said, “Wife Extraordinaire,” and when she became ill, he dedicated himself completely to her care. She died in 2012, just months before their 60th anniversary. Leon himself had two cancer operations in 2017, and he beat the grim prognosis of his surgeon, who said that he only had a few months to live. Leon said, “No, I want to make it to 90 and have more time with my kids.” And he did, inspiring his family, friends and caregivers with his sunny attitude and his refusal to let anything get him down.
Leon was pre-deceased by his parents, Frank Ben Drew and Julia Stavinoha Drew, and his sister, Emily Tillson. In addition to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchild, he is survived by his daughter-in-law, Annette Lawrence Drew, and his son-in-law, David H. Bussey. He loved them as much as his own children.
A private funeral Mass was held for Leon on Saturday at St. Angela Merici Church, where he served as a head usher for close to 40 years. He was buried at Greenwood Cemetery at 5200 Canal Boulevard in New Orleans. The family requests that any donations in his name be made to St. Angela Merici Church.
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