|Birth: ||Jul. 18, 1929|
|Death: ||Feb. 3, 2010|
From the rolling corn fields of Iowa to the peaceful Mississippi Gulf Coast, with many stops in between, a special man passed our way.
Descended from early Iowa pioneers, Don was born in Mitchellville, Iowa on July 18, 1929. He was the younger of two children born to Benner and Leona Beck Graham. A mischievous child, he was known to ditch kindergarten class and also burned down his grandpa's barn.
Don enlisted in the Navy, December 1947 and retired as a Lt Commander in 1970. Stationed at the Naval Training Center in Fresno, he met the love of his life, Joyce. She was serving spaghetti at a blood drive when Don invited her for a cup of coffee and she accepted. In true Joyce style, she ordered a burger and cola. Like we said, he had invited her for a cup of coffee – because that's all he could afford. Joyce paid for her own burger and Don paid for the rest of his life. It was the beginning of a life of love, a life of fun, a life of trials, a life of travel, and a life of family … for generations to come.
Don and Joyce spent their Navy years living in California, Guam, The Philippines, Thailand, Virginia, Florida and their beloved Ireland. Upon Don's naval retirement, they moved their three girls to Ocean Springs, MS. Don worked from 1971 until 1991 at Litton Ingalls Shipbuilders as an engineering manager. Don and Joyce enjoyed their leisure years enjoying many good times with their friends in the Knights of Columbus, The Shamrocks, The Hibernia Marching Club and their family at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church.
Don's greatest joy was his family. He loved nothing more than to be surrounded by his daughters, Dawna, Denise, Derry and foster daughter Tricia. He loved spending his summers taking his grandchildren, Duncan, Dawna Michelle, Guttie, Ricky, Devon and Bridy, on grand month long trips. His best buddy for the past 9 years has been his great grandson, Cameron. PawPaw made sure everyone knew they were loved and cherished.
Don was a stickler for having some things done his way. He'd argue a point for the sake of the argument. With his photographic memory he rarely lost a fight but with his wonderful nature he always left the loser smiling. He was always eager to dole out sage advice such as "If you're going to get drunk tonight, fall in the ditch face first so no one will know who you are".
Our Paw Paw was stubborn, hardheaded, heroic and perfect.
I'm Denise, Don's middle daughter. He referred to me as the "meanie daughter."
I want to share a "daddy" story. It's not the funniest or the most profound. I would say it was typical. It was my wedding day 28 years ago. My daddy, my rock, my protector was ready to pass the torch to the next love of my life. We're standing at the back of the church. The bridesmaids have walked down the aisle. Just then, someone steps on my train and rips it from the back of my dress. It's now dangling from one side on a thread. They're playing, Here Comes the Bride. It's time to go. I don't know how he did it, but dad pulls out a pocket knife from his tuxedo and within no more than 10 seconds the train is fixed. I have no clue how he reattached it. I only know, in true daddy fashion, my dad, my calm-in-the-storm … had made it all okay and off we went. That was my dad.
I don't need to tell you what a great man he was. You all already know that. But I want to take this opportunity to speak in his voice.
He would want you all to know how thankful he is that you're here. He would want you all to know about the love of his life -- his rock, his calm-in-the-storm, the woman that could nag the stripes off a zebra. After his first massive heart attack almost 30 years ago, he always said the only reason he was still alive was because Joyce wouldn't let him slow down long enough to die.
I have witnessed no greater love than the love shared between my mom and dad. The easiest way for me to express their love and to speak in his voice is to share with you the note my dad wrote to my mom on their 40th anniversary:
"Joyce, when we first met I thought you were the most beautiful, exciting woman I'd laid eyes on. I still do. May our next 40 years be as great as the last 40. I love you, Don".
Well, they didn't make it another 40, but their next 17 were every bit as great. Their love was a true blessing and the greatest accomplishment and joy in my dad's life.
The other message I want to leave in my dad's voice is a message to his favorite side kick, Cameron. He would want Cameron to know that although he kind of messed up this birthday, the next 90 birthdays will be the best! On every birthday, you'll have the memory of a very special PawPaw who loved you so much. And you'll know every day that you have an angel in heaven taking care of you.
In closing, I remember you, dad – calm, steady, strong, confident, kind. You taught me the meaning of integrity. You taught me the meaning of unconditional love. You showed me how to live by your example. You were the best teacher I would ever have.
For this and so much more, I love you.
Benner Virgil Graham (1905 - 1949)
Leona Viola Beck Graham (1907 - 1974)
Joyce Louise Tacadena Graham (1933 - 2011)
Biloxi National Cemetery
Plot: SECTION II SITE 89
Maintained by: Dawna Westbrook
Originally Created by: SFC Frank Irons Sr. Reti...
Record added: Feb 05, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 47632103