Charles Drury, Starting as a Plasterer, Created a Hotel Chain

Charles Drury, Starting as a Plasterer, Created a Hotel Chain

  • September 29, 2020
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When Charles Drury was growing up on a farm in Missouri in the 1930s and early 1940s, he helped his father and brothers do plastering and other construction work to make ends meet. During World War II, he served in the Army Air Corps and was assigned to administrative duties in Guam.

Discharged from the military in 1947, Mr. Drury came home by train. His father and oldest brother picked him up at a train station around 6 a.m. They had his plastering clothes in the truck so he could go straight to work. That evening, after a full day of labor, he finally made it home to see his mom.

Construction proved a good career-launcher. While building motels, Mr. Drury learned about the lodging business and hatched a plan to own one. In the early 1960s, he and his brothers opened a

Holiday Inn

in Cape Girardeau, Mo. They later established their own brand, Drury Hotels. The company now has 141 hotels in 26 states, mainly in the Midwest and South.

Mr. Drury died Sept. 7 at a hospital in Creve Coeur, Mo. He was 92 and had heart disease.

He was once asked how the company could survive without a nationally recognized brand. “We’re just going to have to get up a little earlier, stay a little later and work a little harder,” he said.

Charles Louis Drury, the second of nine children, was born Oct. 25, 1927, in St. Louis. When he was 2, his family moved to a farm near Kelso, Mo.

As a young man, he spotted Shirley Luebbers, a waitress, while driving in Cape Girardeau. He parked his car so he could say hello. They married in 1955.

Mrs. Drury helped with décor at the hotels. At her urging, the company in the 1980s renovated a 1907 Railroad YMCA near Union Station in St. Louis and turned it into a Drury Inn, featuring restored terrazzo floors.

His survivors include his wife, seven children, 21 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren, a brother and a sister.

Write to James R. Hagerty at [email protected]

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Appeared in the September 26, 2020, print edition as ‘Plasterer Created Drury Hotel Chain.’

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