He was 46.
Popular in the community, Mr. Graham was an unusually congenial person whose
ready smile and quick sense of humor quickly put others at ease. That combination
made him a formidable personality and helped him become a success in the
fields of real estate and insurance. It also made him an invaluable leader
in many civic endeavors to which he was generous in lending his time and
A memorial service for Mr. Graham is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday at the
United Church of Christ of Kent, with the Rev. Steven Lashbrook officiating.
The family will receive friends from 9 to 11 a.m. at the church immediately
prior to the service. A private burial service will be held at the convenience
of the family.
Paul Wallace, who succeeded Mr. Graham as president of Kent Rotary Club
on July 2, has announced the club's Tuesday meeting will be canceled to
enable Rotarians to pay their respects.
Born July 17, 1951, in Akron, he was the son of Charles T. and Beverly A.
(Bugeholl) Graham, and the grandson of T.G. Graham, prominent in Kent and
Akron business circles.
Mr. Graham lived nearly all his life in the Kent and Twin Lakes community.
He had been a real estate agent with Smiles Realty since its beginnings.
He also was an insurance agent with the Wayne Agency in Kent.
A Rotarian for nearly two decades, he used to joke that he liked being a
member of the club because it gave him the opportunity to call his parents'
friends by their first names. First names are the rule in that organization.
Just three weeks ago, Mr. Graham completed a spirited term as president
of the Kent Rotary Club. A believer that the war against cancer is better
served by an open exchange of information, he would speak easily about his
personal battle, his sense of humor often coming to the fore.
That was especially evident at his final meeting as club president. During
that meeting, Mr. Graham said he had explained to his oncologist a couple
of years ago, when he knew he was in line for the Kent Rotary Club presidency,
that, ``he had to keep me alive at least through my presidency.''
``He did that,'' Mr. Graham continued. ``Any chance you guys want to give
me an extension as president?''
The question drew laughter because it was right in step with the humor that
Mr. Graham used to punctuate his club presidency the entire year and exemplified
the courage with which he approached his struggle. But it also brought tears
to the eyes of members who were aware of Mr. Graham's illness.
Mr. Graham, in that swan song, also announced he would no longer chair the
annual Rotary Christmas party, an elegant event he had staged for the club's
membership for 15 years.
``It's time for someone else to take over, or for the club to do something
else,'' he said, his message apparently one with broader implications.
In addition to Rotary, Mr. Graham had become involved with a number of charitable
and volunteer activities.
He was named the 1994 Kevin Coleman Distinguished Service Award recipient.
He had served on the organization's board, where he was a leader on the
Finance Committee. He was a key organizer of the ``Right at Home'' fund-raiser
the Kevin Coleman Foundation has staged annually for several years, and
it was a joke in that organization that when Mr. Graham sold a house he
included the ``Right at Home'' fund-raiser as a condition of the sale.
He was president-elect of the Kent United Services Organization and in years
past had been a member of the Kent Environmental Council, Big Brothers and
Big Sisters, the Kent Jaycees and the Kent Citizens for Progress. He also
helped the American Heart Association stage fund-raisers in Portage County
and had served a stint as chairman of the annual Kent Rotary charity auction.
He was a member of the Kent Chamber of Commerce and a member and former
director of Twin Lakes Country Club. He also was a member of the Portage
County Board of Realtors and the Independent Insurance Agents.
Eager to help his community, he made a run for a Kent City Council at-large
seat in the early 1980s. A newcomer without a political base, the campaign
was not successful, but at the time established members of council said
a person of Mr. Graham's talent would have benefited the city greatly.
A Kentite most of his life, Mr. Graham was a graduate of Kent State's University
School and attended both Kent State University and Ohio University. He moved
briefly to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., in the 1970s, thinking he'd try life in
a sunbelt state, but, missing family and his many friends in the Kent area,
he soon moved back.
``I realized that family and friends are more important than sunshine, though
I do love sunshine,'' he had explained.
Once, in a Rotary ``getting to know you'' questionnaire, Mr. Graham said
his favorite childhood memory was having a milkshake and pretzels at Thompson's
Drug Store, a reference back to the days when locally-owned drug stores
like Thompson's featured soda fountains.
A swimmer and a jogger, he said his favorite place to vacation was Hilton
Head Island, S.C., and his idea of a good vacation was a beach and good
food. A person who, not unlike many a man, lost his hair at an early age,
he added humorously that his pet peeve was ``bad toupees.''
Mr. Graham is survived his wife, Sandy (Pochedly), whom he married in 1978.
Also surviving are a brother, Doug (Susan), of Adelphi, Md.; sisters, Bege
Graham of Cuyahoga Falls and Mrs. Ralph (Deb) Paisley of Kent; and a niece,
He was preceded in death by his father in 1978 and his mother in 1987.
Bissler & Sons Funeral Home in Kent is handling arrangements. Memorials
may be made to the Kevin Coleman Foundation, 5982 Rhodes Road, Kent, 44240;
the Ireland Cancer Research Fund, c//o University Hospitals, 11100 Euclid
Ave., Cleveland, 44106; or the Kent Rotary Foundation, P.O. Box 5, Kent,