Cover photo for Laura Johnson (Johnson)  Drake's Obituary
Laura Johnson (Johnson)  Drake Profile Photo
1953 Laura 2022

Laura Johnson (Johnson) Drake

October 30, 1953 — July 31, 2022


Laura Drake, Associate Professor of Industrial Design at Purdue University, passed away on July 31, 2022 following complications from a bone marrow transplant received earlier this summer and a long struggle with cancer.

Laura was born October 30, 1953 in Bellaire, Michigan, the second of five children of Mary and Allen Johnson. She is preceded in death by her parents, her maternal grandparents, Opal and Robert Early, and her paternal grandparents, Helen and Walter Johnson.

She is survived by her husband, Kevin Drake, daughter Courtney Bannister (Thomas), and six grandchildren, Ethan, Roslyn, Penelope, Olivia, Vivian, and Kora. She is also survived by her four siblings, Allen Johnson (Rose), Greenwood, Indiana; Nora Smith, Philomath, Oregon; Robert Johnson (Anita), Jacksonville Beach, Florida, and Rebecca Johnson (Neal Finkelstein), New York, New York.

Laura was a 1972 graduate of Crawfordsville High School. She held a BA degree from Herron School of Art, IUPUI, an MFA degree from the Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and an MA from Purdue University.

Laura's career spanned more than four decades. Her early work in small sculptures using telephone wire and papier-mâché spawned an interest in sculptural furniture design while in New York. She exhibited often at Art et Industrie starting in the early 1980's as a solo artist and in collaborative pieces with her first husband Terence Main as Main + Main. Returning to the Midwest in her late 20's where she met and married her second husband, Kevin Drake, Laura pursued an interest in casting metals and a degree at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. In the early 1990's she began teaching at Purdue in the School of Design and found an environment that supported her interest in making beautiful objects and teaching students. Over the years, Laura worked with hundreds of design students and often traveled throughout the world with them to shows and exhibitions. She took great joy in her student's accomplishments both at Purdue and, later, as they launched and grew their own careers in the field of design.

Laura's recent exhibitions include the Yodex Exhibit in Taipei, Taiwan; the International Contemporary Furniture Fair at the Jacob Javits Center in New York, NY; the Neocon World's Trade Fair at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago; BECA Gallery in New Orleans, LA; the Fine Furnishings Show in Milwaukee, WI; and exhibits affiliated with the Chicago Furniture Designers Association. Her work which received numerous awards over the years is held in both private and public museum collections including a piece acquired in 1994 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Laura's curious mind, optimistic spirit, and brave approach to life will be missed by family, friends, and colleagues who loved her. All we can think to say is "well, just keep sanding".

A memorial service is planned for Saturday, October 29, 2022. Details to follow.

Memories of Laura can be shared at Updates to plans for the memorial service will also be posted to this site.

Donations in memory of Laura may be made to the Reuff School of Design at Purdue,

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Laura Johnson (Johnson) Drake, please visit our flower store.


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