Letter: A tribute to Uncle Mo (2024)

The Kent Community and Northeast Ohio are mourning the loss of one of its great individuals, Maurice “Uncle Mo” Drake, who passed away on the morning of June 14, 2024. He was a champion of compassion, peace, and love, who cared about the environment and walked his talk. He was a renaissance man of the heart, who had a deep impact on hundreds, if not thousands, of people throughout the course of his life. This was especially true of people with special needs or who were challenged by abuse or addiction.

Whether funeral or newborn baby, he was there to share the sorrow and celebrate the joy.

For many years he drove a bus for The Happy Days School in Franklin Township that served special needs children. He also offered the Private Turtle Limousine, a renovated school bus, for groups to go to Cleveland, Akron, or wherever, and party without risking a drive home. He was a constant comedian who loved to joke around. Laughter was always included in the fare for a ride on the Private Turtle.

For five decades, he offered us food for the mind, body, and soul through the Peaceable Kingdom Bakery, The Red Radish Restaurant, and food trucks at festivals. He always used natural ingredients and limited use of sugar. He offered pancake breakfasts to kids in The New World Children’s Theatre. He offered fruit bars at potlucks and art gallery openings.

He was a proud vegetarian for all of his adult life, who attributed his healthy eating as the reason he was able to overcome his allergies as a youth. He used this knowledge to serve as judge at the Vegan Iron Chef competitions for many years in Kent and Akron. And no matter what he made in the kitchen, a key ingredient was love with a sprinkle of laughter. We all felt the extra radiance that comes with food made from the heart.

In other “food” for the soul, he used his sobriety (since 1985) to help others overcome the darkness that overshadows life in difficult situations. Mo was not a member of a non-profit organization with a vast array of resources. He was just a humble guy who made it his purpose to serve the community.

We looked to Mo to help our children when they needed extra emotional support. We looked to Mo to help with our parents when they were absent. We called on him at Kent Natural Foods Co-op whenever there was a big task to perform, whether it was moving the entire inventory of the store to another temporary location, moving a shed on logs by pickup truck, moving a 3-ton produce cooler off a semi without a liftgate, or pouring cement for a concrete pad to meet health requirements for trash and recycling. Uncle Mo was always there to do the heavy lifting.

We might call him to oil spray the undercarriage of our vehicles. He would do it with plant based lanolin where others used petroleum based spray. We would call on him to detail our cars. We knew he was the best man for the job because of his detailed attention to the smallest specks of dirt. He was a self described “redneck” who loved to drive a dump truck and scrap metal at the local salvage yards. He drove a Ford F-350 truck that ran on Veggie Grease Diesel. He made the diesel himself in his garage. He would drive to various restaurants to pick up big jugs of french fry grease and filter it into 55 gallon drums to make his homemade fuel.

He was also a great singer. Anyone who had the ability to hear him sing knew he could have gone places if he had a team behind him to promote his talents. Readers can get a glimpse of this talent on video with a Google or YouTube search of “Uncle Mo at Nighttown.” (Nighttown is one of Cleveland’s premier jazz clubs.)

Mo was a member of The Kent African Drum Community who performed on drums often for crowds at Kent’s Heritage Festival, Haymaker Farmer’s Market, Halim El-Dabh’s Birthday Party, or whatever occasion that was requested by folks in the area.

Our community is grieving. We are reminded that life is short. Time is of the essence. To do good for others is the highest purpose.

Currently, there is an outpouring of stories, photos, and videos happening on Facebook. They offer a fitting tribute to this larger than life man who lived among us for 71 years. Few people touch the lives of so many in such a deeply personal way. Few people have the time and energy to take on someone else’s pain the way Mo did. For those of us who knew him, we celebrate the years we got to spend with him. In many ways, his love, compassion, and caring for all people without judgment will be the way we carry on his legacy. We’re sorry he’s gone, but thankful we knew him. We’ll remember his enormous smile, warm heart, and healing hugs.

Big Love, Uncle Mo! May you have a peaceful and joyful journey to the spirit world.

Jeff Ingram, Kent
Kent Natural Foods Co-op, Standing Rock Cultural Arts, Who’s Your Mama? Earth Day Celebration

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Letter: A tribute to Uncle Mo (2024)
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