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Robert K. Graves

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Robert K. Graves Obituary
GRAVES, ROBERT K., of Louisville, a proud member of the Greatest Generation, died Saturday, December 14, 2013, at the Thomson-Hood Veterans Center in Wilmore, KY. He was 93.

Born in Cumberland County, KY, in 1920 and raised in Tompkinsville, Bob was the son of Arvle and Addie Graves. His father was a country farmer and his mother, a homemaker.

As a youth in southern Kentucky, Bob developed a fascination with the developing technology of radio, building his first radio from a mail-order set from Popular Mechanics magazine.

His life would forever change when he decided at age 20 to enlist in the Army in March of 1941 just months before the United States entered World War II. His enlistment would provide him a window to some of the most profound events of the 20th Century.

He was selected for radio school at Fort Knox, after which he was assigned to the 59th Signal Battalion, and later, the First Armored Signal Battalion.

On December 7, he came out of an afternoon movie at Fort Knox to news that would dramatically change the trajectory of World War II.

"Everyone was shouting, 'The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor,'" he recalled.

That launched the United States into the war and Bob into active duty in the Signal Corps. He would serve in North Africa and throughout Europe over the next several years helping operate radio communications in locations including Casa Blanca, Sicily, Naples, Rome, Paris and Marseille.

He encountered General George Patton on several occasions, once when he was working as a 23-year-old radio operator on the U.S.S. Monrovia, when Patton came on board demanding an explanation of the equipment.

"He started cussing, the air turned blue," said Bob, recalling he was too terrified to speak. "Some lieutenant colonel came in and said 'Sir, it's a new radio.' He just moved on." In April 1945, Bob recalled the shock of the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was very popular with the troops, when it was broadcast on BBC radio.

"Everyone was pretty disappointed and sad," he said.

Bob was working a radio operator in Augsburg, Germany, in 1945, as the war was nearing an end, when he saw a command car arrive. It was carrying top Nazi official Hermann Goering, viewed as a successor to Hitler, and who had been arrested for war crimes. Goering later would be prosecuted at Nuremburg where he committed suicide.

Bob was still in Augsburg in May 1945 when he received a report in code that he passed on to superiors without knowing the contents.

He would later learn it was the news that the entire German army had surrendered.

After the war, Bob returned to Kentucky in September 1945. He recalled the transition as difficult.

"They turned you loose with no adjustment to civilian life," he said. "It was kindly rough for a while." He worked as a radio operator on a river barge and as a broadcaster with a Frankfort radio station. In Frankfort, he met his future wife, Caroline Yeary, on a double date. They married in 1951.

He took a job with the city of Louisville as a police radio technician, retiring in 1983.

His wife, Caroline died in 1998. He is survived by his daughters, Deborah Yetter (Richard L.) and their three children, Richard Birk (Kate Lisherness), Julia, and Laura Yetter; and Rebecca Jones (Bob) and her children, Melissa, Thomas and Michael Makled. He also is survived by a brother, William Graves, of Louisville.

Bob was a longtime member of Westport Road Church of Christ.

His funeral will be held Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 10 a.m. at Harrod Brothers Funeral Home, 312 Washington St., Frankfort, KY, with burial to follow at Peaks Mill Cemetery in Frankfort. Visitation will be held at Harrod Brothers Wednesday, December 18, 2013 from 5 to 8 p.m.

Expressions of sympathy may go to the Thomson-Hood Veterans Center at Wilmore, KY, or the Volunteers of America in Louisville's programs for veterans.

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Published in The Courier-Journal on Dec. 18, 2013
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