KINGSPORT — Verlin Droke, 97, died peacefully at his lifelong home Sunday after a period of declining health.

Verlin was born Feb. 6, 1922, in what was then known as Fordtown on the original Droke Farm, which is now part of Colonial Heights.

He attended Miller Perry Elementary School and the former Holston High School.

In 1942, Verlin joined the U.S. Army Air Corps, Air Transport Command, for six years. He attended aircraft training school in Missouri. Verlin was stationed in India for 21 months during World War II, where he served as a flight engineer to the C-47 aircrafts that flew across the dangerous region then known as “The Hump.”

Some of his favorite war stories involved flying supply missions with Col. Chennault, son of Major Gen. Claire Lee Chennault, of the “Flying Tigers.” His final three years of service were at Malstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana, where he met and married Vivian R. Dors on April 10, 1947.

Upon his honorable discharge in January 1949, Verlin was a staff sergeant. Following his military service, Verlin founded the Droke’s Family Shoe Store in 1950 in Elizabethton, and between 1950 and 1982, he established 11 stores in upper East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. He was the owner of Droke’s Family Shoe Stores for 43 years, retiring in 1993.

Verlin kept the family farm active with cattle, hay and gardening for years. He was a member of the Farm Bureau of Sullivan County.

He was the oldest living member of the Colonial Heights United Methodist Church. His mother was a descendent of the R.P. Gott family, who donated property for the original church in 1845.

Verlin enjoyed fishing, camping and golf, but he loved country music, especially bluegrass. At one time he sponsored and was a member of the Country Tune Twisters, as well as the Tennessee Country Boys bands. They played locally and often appeared on WJHL-TV.

He was preceded in death by his parents: William Monroe Droke and Edna Mae Gott Droke; one sister: Margaret Johnson Roberts; and three brothers: Charles Droke, W.D. Droke and Mac Droke.

Verlin is survived by his loving wife of 72 years: Vivian R. Dors Droke; his daughter: Rena Paulette Droke, of Kingsport; his son: Riky Paul Droke and his wife, Teresa, of Johnson City; and several nieces, nephews and cousins.

The family is grateful to all of his caregivers and medical providers who were invaluable in the excellent care they gave him.

The family will receive friends Sunday from 2-4 p.m. at Colonial Heights Methodist Church. The funeral service will follow at 4 p.m. at the church with the Rev. Robert Burlingham officiating.

Burial will follow at Mount Lebanon Cemetery, beside the church.

Family and friends will serve as pallbearers.

In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Mount Lebanon Cemetery, c/o Kent Harris, 216 Lebanon Road, Kingsport, TN 37663.