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Dr. Joseph Benjamin Graves, Jr. passed away Friday, February 7, 2014, 16 days before his 89th birthday. He was born in El Paso and attended Austin High. At sixteen he entered Vanderbilt University earning his bachelor's degree and a law degree. He continued his education at Harvard earning a Master's degree in Public Administration. He served a stint in the South Pacific with the U.S. Navy during World War II. He married Jean Christian in 1946 and raised 4 daughters. Jean died in 2009. In the 1950's, he worked for the U.S. Housing Department under Eisenhower. His daughter, Cierra, remembers that Joe and Jean were often invited to the White House for dinner. In the early 60's, they wanted to return to the desert southwest. He began his career as an educator in 1964 when he took a job in the Political Science Department at Texas Western. As the years went by he was instrumental in establishing the Criminal Justice Department at UTEP. For years he taught in both departments. He was "an institution" at UTEP a colleague said; teaching his final class only 3 days prior to his death. When he entered the hospital his only concern was that his students be told that he would not be there for his Thursday class. He had a tremendous impact on the lives of his students and they would often tell us, his family, that he was the best professor they ever had. He served on many boards around town over the years including Radford School, Border Patrol and Crime Stoppers. He was often being asked to speak about the law and would be asked by the local paper to comment on constitutional law issues. He loved collecting. Collecting what, you ask? Anything and everything. He often told family members, "these things make me happy". His collecting hobby began at Thieves Market in Washington, D.C. while working for the Eisenhower Administration. His daughter India remembers during her childhood that he'd ask everyone he met if they had any pocketknives they wanted to sell. Here in El Paso he was a regular at pawn shops, junk shops and flea markets. His home and office proudly display his collections. His greatest pleasure was taking his family to eat. His daughter Cierra says that while eating lunch he'd be talking about where they should go for dinner. One of his favorites foods was red enchiladas. He would try them everywhere he went, usually declaring, "these are the best enchiladas I've ever had". He spent many weekends in the last 4 years in Las Cruces with his daughter Gillian and her family. She said that when he'd get up to her house he'd have groceries and tell her what he wanted to eat for each meal over the weekend. He had an astounding vocabulary. Into his eighties he still made lists of words and their definitions. He loved watching old westerns; but his favorite movie was Blazing Saddles, which he would watch over and over with his grandsons, Tanner and Thayer, laughing and laughing. In recent years one of his favorite things to do was to watch his grandson, Wiley, run in long distance track meets. He was eccentric, never a slave to fashion, independent and exceedingly proud of his grandchildren. He was a truly unique person and nobody who ever met him would disagree. He was preceded in death by his parents, Joseph and Virginia Graves, his wife, Jean, his oldest daughter, Candace, and his brother, Richard. He is survived by two sisters, Gloria Funk and Catherine Harmon; his three daughters, Cierra Graves, India Graves and Gillian Hall; grandchildren Daphne Rogstad, Koren Meacham, Tanner Brown, Kelsey Hughes, Wiley Hughes and Thayer Brown; 2 great-grandchildren Hayden and Kelian Rogstad and his son's-in-law Tom Meacham, Tommy Brown, David Hughes, Ed Schiebel and Robert Hall. Waking Dr. Graves Radford School/Roderick Hall Saturday, February 22, 2014 1-3 p.m. RSVP: wakingdrgraves@yahoo.com
Published in El Paso Times from Feb. 15 to Feb. 22, 2014
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