TRIBUTES have been paid to a “sparkling soul” believed to be the oldest woman in the British Isles with Down’s syndrome after she passed away this week.
Libby Drake’s family praised her on social media after she died on Wednesday morning, aged 73.
“It is with a very heavy heart that we have to post this today. Our Aunty Libby sadly passed away early this morning,” they wrote.
“She was the happiest, funniest, sparkling soul and was loved by everyone that met her. We will miss her so much.”
Ms Drake lived at Les Amis – a charity that provides residential care to people with learning disabilities – for 32 years.
The organisation also paid their respects to their former resident, saying: “Libs was our very own ‘Queen Elizabeth’ and will be so missed by all her friends and family at Les Amis, some of whom have known and supported her for over 30 years.
“Libby left Les Amis and moved to nursing care just four weeks ago, which created a huge hole in our hearts. Both her friends and staff have missed her greatly, especially her charismatic charm, sassy spirit, wicked sense of humour and mischievous smile.”
They added: “Earlier this year, Libby became quite the celebrity after appearing on TV and social media to celebrate her probably being the oldest living female with Down’s syndrome. Libby very much enjoyed her new-found celeb status, and lapped up the attention when she was out and about and recognised. She would always have time for a chat with her fans and admirers – old and new.”
Ms Drake grew up in the 1950s when it was expected that she would live for about 15 to 20 years.
However, her niece Julie Stephens credits her father and the care she received at Les Amis for keeping her healthy and maintaining her high quality of life.
She was raised by her father, who made sure to give her lots of independence. For most of her life Ms Drake would take a bus into town to visit the shops.
After her father was diagnosed with dementia and moved into a care home, Ms Drake initially moved in with her niece Julie, and soon after moved to Les Amis.
“She used to go there for respite care and she always loved it,” Ms Stephens said.
About 20 years ago, Ms Drake was diagnosed with early-onset dementia, a health risk particular to people with Down’s syndrome.
“Les Amis are amazing,” added Ms Stephens. “We think that the job they do is incredible. Without them, Libby wouldn’t have had the quality of life that she has had.”
Many tributes were paid to the “bubbly” Ms Drake in response to her family’s social media post.
One Islander commented: “Libby was such a lovely lady who would brighten any room she entered.”
“What an incredible soul she was,” added another.