Drury was CEO of Drury Southwest, which includes hotels, a bowling alley, real estate development and outdoor advertising, according to the firm's website and Walter Ford of Ford and Sons Funeral Home, which is handling arrangements.
"He was an extraordinary gentleman," said his son, Rick Drury, a director and attorney with Drury Southwest. "Extraordinary might be an understatement in so many respects ... genius, humble, modest and just a drive and tenacity beyond parallel and all at the same time extremely charitable and generous."
Drury said his father was tough on the outside, which was a product of "growing up dirt-poor in the Depression era and working his fingers to the bone for 81 years and leaving quite a legacy."
Being part of the family business, he said, was an experience.
"It was a roller-coaster ride -- ups and downs everything you can imagine and then some. When you not only have the business dynamic but the family dynamic component into it, it can be great and volatile, often at the same time. He was one of those leaders that his troops, if you will, would fall on their swords for," Rick Drury said.
"All I can say is we have lost a true, great leader who will be sorely missed, and his shoes will be hard to fill, if not impossible," he added.
Drury Southwest employs 240 workers, said Dennis Vollink, president of Drury Southwest Inc., based in Cape Girardeau. Vollink issued a news release that included some of Drury's background. His vast business dealings include ownership in Drury Hotels, a company based in St. Louis owned by Robert and his brother Charles, which
employs about 4,000, Vollink said.
"He was active until just a short while ago," Vollink said. "He came to work until he was physically unable to make it here in the last month or so. He loved the work and loved the employees. His retirement was to keep working every day."
In a telephone interview, Vollink said during the recent recession, the company didn't lay anyone off. He said Drury kept everyone working, was "always very concerned about the employees," and wanted to make sure they were "very well taken care of."
Drury's most recent projects were restoring historic buildings in downtown Cleveland and Pittsburgh, which will be converted into Drury properties. The one in Cleveland will be a Drury Plaza and the one in Pittsburgh will be a Drury Inn and Suites, Vollink said.
Raised in rural Kelso, Mo., Drury and his brothers worked closely with their father, Lambert, on the family farm, according to the release. When the boys were old enough, they founded Drury Plastering with their father. That endeavor began "the first of many successful companies bearing the Drury family name," Vollink said in the release.
The Drury family was largely responsible for the development of much of Cape Girardeau's west side near Interstate 55.
In 1962, Drury and his brothers obtained a Holiday Inn in Cape Girardeau, which got them interested in the hospitality industry, the release said. In 1973, Drury co-founded Drury Hotels, and its first property was a Drury Inn in Sikeston, Mo.
Today, Drury Hotels is a nationally recognized, award-winning chain with 130 hotels in 25 states.
Vollink said Drury's directive was to keep the company strong and growing for the family and employees.
According to past Southeast Missourian stories, Drury also was involved in the Cape Girardeau community -- from philanthropic initiatives to opposing the location of the Show Me Center and funding mechanisms for Southeast Missouri State University's River Campus. He also opposed tax initiatives aimed at hotels and restaurants.
Land owned by Drury southwest of the I-55 and Route K intersection also was used for the Cemetery of the Innocents. The land has a sign that states the number of babies lost to abortion after the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized
Drury also led many commercial developments such as Cape West Business Park, Auburn Park Place and Kings Center shopping plaza, to name a few.
Drury Hotels officials in 2009 also transferred deeds to a former Pear Tree Inn and neighboring restaurant to Three Rivers College in Poplar Bluff, Mo. The two facilities totaled 76,230 square feet and sat on 1.75 acres, according to a Southeast Missourian article. The donation was worth more than $3.5 million.
Drury also was involved in a project to get Procter & Gamble Co. to expand its tissue and towel manufacturing operations in Cape Girardeau County.
A memorial Mass is being planned by the family to celebrate Drury's life. Arrangements are incomplete.