Edmund and Mary Drabeck
Edmund Drabek’s adage to his family was: “I can’t doesn’t live here, but I can if I try does!!” This was not some tired old saying that he tried to have his family believe, he lived it himself and coaxed everyone around him to live it as well. Edmund’s successful perseverance through life’s obstacles made him a model of what can be accomplished with determination and forethought. The adversities he faced never dampened his high spirits and love of people. With a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face, how could anyone guess the number of hurdles that challenged him? And now, his determination will forever live on in Washington County, as the family has established a scholarship fund with the Washington County Community Foundation in honor of Edmund and Mary Drabek. The scholarship will help Washington County high school graduates who are pursuing a post-secondary education in science or mathematics.
Edmund’s and Mary’s roads to success began worlds apart. Edmund’s family were immigrants from Czechoslovakia who settled in Richmond, Texas. Luckily his family made it to the United States before the communist could take control; however, throughout most of his life, knowledge of the family members left in the Old Country provided his endless appreciation of the little things. He was the middle child of seven and as a member of a poor farming family in Texas, he started picking cotton to help the family’s income as soon as he was able to walk. Edmund’s many stories of his childhood focused on his relationship with his Czech family and friends. He was swift to downplay the lack of money and basic necessities. Somehow his parents and grandparents managed to provide a home and food, albeit meager. The sparse circumstances of his youth prompted Edmund’s never give up attitude so he could provide more than enough for his own family.
Mary’s family lived most of their lives in Louisville, Kentucky. Just as Edmund did, she had six brothers and sisters. While her family also struggled to make a living, Mary was conveyed an additional heartbreak; her father died when she was just eight and all the children were as good as orphaned. In 1938, women working outside the home were nearly unheard of; however, that is precisely what Mary’s mother, Goldie, had to do. Goldie cleaned other people’s houses and scrubbed as many floors as the day would allow so she could provide for her children and try to keep the family together. The children had to care for each other and the house while their mother worked long days. Goldie managed to provide a meager home and food while enduring her own emotional difficulties. This experience instilled in Mary the drive to ensure that her family would have more than enough.
The two determined minds of Edmund and Mary were meant to be joined. God’s plan had already been prepared for them. After Edmund graduated high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1954. He was stationed in Fort Knox, Kentucky and met Mary in 1955. Wasting no time, they were married in March 1956. Soon they had two children, Edmund (Eddie) and Deborah (Deb). Their teachings of the importance of close families and overcoming adversities began as soon as they had children. Edmund and Mary both knew they were given children to teach and inspire as best they could.
Edmund took a job at a Louisville, Kentucky factory, while Mary continued to work as a secretary. Edmund worked as many hours of overtime as he could so the family’s financial future would be more secure. Mary took on as many additional sewing and cleaning jobs as she could handle. Extras were a rarity and only bought when the “spare change jar” indicated it was possible. While short on luxuries, we (the Drabek kids) never felt slighted on love and fun. Fun was just simple, not expensive. Snow sledding with Mom and Dad in the park, playing dominoes and cards, for example, never cost a thing but is one of our happiest memories.
After five years of saving, Edmund found a farm they might be able to afford in Greenville, Indiana. It was only 80 acres, but since he would need to buy farm equipment also, they thought it was enough for their first farming endeavor. Edmund’s roots as a cotton farmer helped carry him through. Cotton is a warm weather crop, so adapting his techniques to a colder, more changeable climate proved a challenge. But his motto, “I can’t doesn’t live here, I can if I try does” supported his always optimistic attitude. Edmund and Mary continued to work at their outside jobs while running a successful farm. Soon they had saved enough more to acquire more land. Mary’s belief was to “watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves”. So began the early teaching of the Drabek children to go for the gusto, enjoy hard work, save a nest egg and succeed gracefully.
After five years on the 80 acre farm, the Drabek’s decided it was time to take on a bigger challenge. That is when Edmund found the perfect farm in Washington County. It was over 300-acres and was nestled in the Floyd, Washington, and Harrison County triangle. The farm was known as the old Goss Farm. The farm house was over 100 years old with four bedrooms, lay along Bear Creek and was also bestowed with the well known Goss Cave.
In 1968, the Drabek’s purchased Goss Farm and relocated their young family to Martinsburg in Washington County. Edmund and Mary named their endeavor Drabek Farms and expanded their budding farm business. As they continued their outside jobs, Drabek Farms took most of the time at home. Crops for both the livestock and family were planted in the spring, hay cutting in the summer, harvesting in the fall and livestock to be tended in the winter. Each day held a new adventure: a new calf, a fence that needed repair, a tractor broken, a school event that needed attending, or a church picnic that needed a volunteer. Edmund approached every daily endeavor with the “I CAN IF I TRY ATTITUDE” attitude and a smile. How could his attitude not be contagious? Edmund and Mary balanced the work of Drabek Farms, their outside jobs, and raising their family without any one of them feeling deprived.
According to Ed and Deb, many nights were spent at the kitchen table encouraging us kids to complete our homework and excel at school. Every East Washington school event was attended by at least one of our parents; the majority of the time both came. There were band concerts for Deb, track and basketball for Eddie, and PTA meetings. They also made sure we had extracurricular activities. We took dancing and swimming lessons and participated in 4-H and Scouts. Our parents were always going somewhere or doing something that involved us. Our parents believed that we kids and our friends kept them young. Apparently they were right. All this family time taught us the importance of family and instilled in us the morals and teachings they thought were most important: Get an education, be good to people, work hard, live humbly, save money, and most of all NEVER GIVE UP (WE CAN IF WE TRY).
After their children left home, Edmund and Mary continued to run Drabek Farms, work outside the farm and help their children with their own families. Edmund remained an avid fan of the East Washington Musketeers and would attend as many home basketball games as possible. He truly believed that all children were blessings and each could change the world.
The Drabek’s devotion to their family and all children lives on in each of their own children. Eddie has made his parents proud and fulfilled their teachings by starting and successfully operating Drabek Construction. He and his wife, Rhonda, remained in Martinsburg and raised their children, Matthew and Emily, next door and as a part of Drabek Farms. Eddie’s children have advanced their education at Indiana University and Loyola University. Edmund was very proud to have his grandchildren continue their education.
Deb moved to Lexington in 1980 to pursue environmental science. She and her husband, Steve, are raising their three children, Stephen, Candice and Austin. Each of them has their own special memories of times with Grandpa and Grandma. All of the grandchildren remember fondly Edmund’s encouragement to be the best at whatever they pursue. Each can tell you stories of when Grandpa said: “I can’t doesn’t live here; but, I can if I try does!”
Edmund’s good nature and strong will was with him after his terminal diagnosis of leukemia in August 2006. He never believed that leukemia would get the best of him. He believed that if he fought hard enough, he could conquer it just as he had done with all obstacles. God had a different plan for the good-hearted, smiling Edmund. God didn’t want Edmund to suffer, so he took him to heaven quickly, in September 2006.
Edmund and Mary’s teachings of their own children, love of Washington County, and the wish to see more Washington County youth succeed is the basis of the Edmund and Mary Drabek Scholarship Fund for Washington County youth who are pursuing their education in mathematics and science. Hopefully with some help: I CAN IF I TRY will be a motto for more youth of Washington County.