Remembering Joseph C. Draper, L.S.

It is with great sadness that we share the news of the death of Joe Draper, co-founder of Draper Aden Associates. He passed away on January 14, 2021 from complications of COVID-19.


Draper began his professional surveying career in 1965 and became a leader in the growth of the Christiansburg-Blacksburg-Montgomery County community. He held a degree in agronomy from Virginia Tech and was an avid Hokie supporter. Over the years, he struck out on his own and in 1972, Joe Draper and Bill Aden formed our firm, Draper Aden Associates, in Blacksburg, Virginia.

joe draper

“Joe has that rare ability to relate to people well,” said current President and CEO Jeff Lighthiser. “As a result, people always wanted to work with Joe.”


Draper was President of Draper Aden Associates from its inception and held that role until he retired in August of 1997. He also served several terms as a member of the Montgomery County Planning Commission.


His quiet leadership helped propel the firm to today’s Mid-Atlantic reach. “Joe was the kind of guy that didn’t talk a lot, but when he did folks listened,” said Lee White, Principal-In-Charge of Marketing and Business Development.


“Joe Draper was a friend, a confidant, and a wise business partner that I shared Draper Aden with for over 25 years,” said co-founder Bill Aden. “He was the quiet wisdom behind many of the major decisions that were made during our time together. I suppose I could be characterized as the person who never slowed down, but, when the chips were down, or when we needed some important decisions made, Joe and I would get together privately, and I would be amazed by his wisdom.”


Over the course of his life, Draper saw this firm grow from six employees in one city to well over 300 employees spread across eight offices in two states. Part of that growth comes from Draper’s reputation; he was known for his ability solve problems and mentored many of the employees to walk through Draper Aden’s doors.


“Joe was a great mentor who could often find creative solutions to challenges and client needs.  I learned many skills from Joe,” said Lighthiser.


Long after Draper’s retirement, he and Aden remained friends. “The man had an incredible memory, and I can remember just six months ago asking him about a land development project that we did back in the early 80s,” Aden said. “He could even remember the job number!”


“I’m going to miss him terribly, but I know he’s going to be casting for his favorite bonefish in a better place.“


Read his full obituary here.

roanoke times newspaper clipping of joe draper and bill aden