George Graham, a true hero

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

It is very appropriate that during this holiday celebrating our country's independence that we are also celebrating the life of our friend, George Wallis Graham. Although most of us have associations with him that are more about farming, cows, fairs, hunting, dogs, fishing, church, families and even motorcycles, a big part of this man was his love of his country.

As a young man recently out of high school and entered into the University of Missouri, George enlisted after Pearl Harbor Day and served many years in Europe, mainly Germany, including the Battle of the Bulge. But George did not talk about this part of his life to very many people. We knew of his patriotism and his service by his reverence for things symbolizing the United States of America.

For example, he flew the red, white and blue every day at his home. His nephew told the congregation at his funeral that George said he fought for the right to fly that flag and he would continue to do that. When the local schools celebrated Veterans Day, he proudly was escorted to his seat by our great-granddaughter, Marilyn, who was enrolled in ROTC.

When the songs of the different branches of the service and "The Caissons Go Rolling Along" were played, his proud posture as he stood showed his pride in what his casual conversations left out -- his experiences as an artillery spotter in the 691st Field Artillery.

I have had the pleasure of interviewing George and his wife, Sibyl, for several articles. One fun article was about George and his favorite bird dog. At that time both George and his dog were about ready to end their personal hunting days, but George was still very pleased and interested when he learned there were still several covey of quail in our part of the county. Although he didn't tramp through the fields as much in the later days, he still went along, sat in the car and watched his younger relatives in their hunts. It was a family affair.

Another article was about George and Sibyl's marriage. George told me the thing that impressed him first about Sibyl was her willingness to hop on his motorcycle with him. He thought that took a lot of courage when he came to a dinner at the Fair Grove Methodist Church honoring local veterans and the minister's daughter took his challenge. Although they met at Fair Grove, their wedding was at Rogersville where her father had just been appointed to the Rogersville Methodist Church and they wanted him to perform the wedding.

Throughout the Grahams' and our married lives, our paths crisscrossed many times with friends and relatives in many of the same places where we each landed. Lester and George shared classes together at the university and both ended up as Extension agents after some other experiences first. In each of the places where George and Sibyl lived, they attended the United Methodist Church and that became an even stronger tie for us.

Soon after we all retired and were here together in Vernon County, we had some memorable Christmas get-togethers with other Extension staff, present and past, for shared suppers and snappy games of Pitch. George was a formidable opponent and I was always glad if it worked around to his being my partner. If I didn't play a hand the smartest way, he could often remedy my error, and he always encouraged me that it was fine the way I did it.

He was honored last year by the Extension personnel for his service in this and other counties. This pleased him very much. It also pleased all of his friends that we were able to give him this recognition.

The fact that his burial will be in the Hazelwood Cemetery in Springfield, Mo., with full military honors, brings together the two things most precious in his life: his country and his family. The Hazelwood Cemetery is where his parents and many other relatives are buried. The full military honors will send him off with the thanks of his country.