Willie Lee Gilmore

January 7, 1928 ~ April 13, 2020 (age 92)


In Loving Memory


Willie Lee Gilmore

1/7/1928 – 4/13/2020



Willie Gilmore, lovingly known as Madea, by her children, was born in Selma, Alabama on January 7, 1928 to Sidney and Dina Lewis and was one of five children from that union.

Willie departed life on April 13, 2020 at Northern Manor Multicare Center in Nanuet, New York in Rockland County after a brief illness.

She grew up grew in Birmingham, Alabama and was educated in the public school system.

She confessed her faith in Jesus Christ at a young age and was passionate about living and demonstrating Gods core values. She met WWII veteran Harry B. Drake after his discharge from the army corp. They were married in 1947 and from that union came six children. Clara, Mary, Harry, William, Kathy, and Delinda.

She is predeceased by her parents Sidney and Dina Lewis, and all of her siblings: ST Lewis of Chicago, Illinois, Josie Thornton of Birmingham, Alabama, CB Lewis of Birmingham, Alabama, John Henry Lewis of Birmingham, Alabama, and her son, William Lamar Drake of Atlanta, Georgia. She also was preceded in death by her stepsister Flora Wright of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and her stepbrother Arthur Furlow of Selma, Alabama .Her first husband Harry B. Drake, Sr also preceded her in death.

In 1959, she relocated to New York City, New York for better employment opportunities. She worked at the Metropolitan Transit Headquarter for several years before retiring.

She met Henry Gilmore of Harlem, New York in 1960, and in 1964 they were married. He became stepfather to her six children and was affectionately called “Daddy Gil”.

Willie was a soft-spoken, loving and compassionate person. She loved her family dearly, especially her grandchildren and great grandchildren. There wasn’t anything that she wouldn’t do for them. She also extended that caring generosity to friends and strangers alike.  Her capacity for selflessness was unmatched throughout her life. She personally touched the lives of many without any reservations. She understood what it was like to be in need of the basic necessities of life from her youth growing up in the deep south without her mother, who died when she was very young. Life was hard but their father, as a single parent, held the family together.

She was an avid seamstress and made all of her clothing, which she wore with great pride. She loved all kinds of plants and flowers and could grow anything. Her green thumb was prolific and her apartment always looked and smelled like a well pruned greenhouse. She loved her animals as much as she loved her family. They were like her children, which she pampered and spoiled with her homemade gourmet meal mixtures. Plain store bought food wasn’t good enough for them.

She loved life and life loved her in return. She was very independent, strong-willed and determined. Giving up was not an option. She lived her life on her own terms and she did it her way.

Willie is survived by her children Clara Dean (the late Perry) Carter of Birmingham, Alabama, Harry B. (Donna) Drake, Jr. of Birmingham, Alabama,, Mary Frances ( the late Alan) Williams of Birmingham, Alabama, Kathy Lee (Allen) Kelley of Portchester, New York, and Delinda (Eon) Byer of Pearl River, New York, a host of grandchildren, great grandchildren, family, and friends.


Willie will be dearly missed by all who knew and loved her. Rest in peace.


Where there is love, the heart is light,

Where there is love, the day is bright.

Where there is love, there’s a quiet peace,

A tranquil place where troubles cease.

Oh, blessed are they who walk in love-

They also walk with God above.

                                              Author Helen Steiner Rice

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