Donald Graves

FALMOUTH, Maine — Donald Hiller Graves, 80, of Falmouth, Maine, formerly of Jackson and Durham, N.H., passed away after a lengthy illness on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010 at Sedgewood Commons.

He was born on Sept. 11, 1930 in Fall River, Mass., the son of Wilfred Graves, a school principal, and Marion Hiller, a nurse. He received a bachelor's in English from Bates College in 1952, where working in the dining hall, he met his wife of 56 years, Mary "Betty" Elizabeth Lewis.

After spending four years as a member of the United States Coast Guard, they moved to Fairhaven, Mass., where he began teaching at the East Fairhaven Elementary School in 1956. He became principal in 1958 and obtained his master's in education in 1959 from Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts.

He then moved with his family of five children to begin a new career in educational ministry at the Hamburg Presbyterian Church in New York. In 1973 the University at Buffalo awarded him his doctorate in education. He began his professorial career at the University of New Hampshire in the Early Childhood Program.

In 1976 he founded the Writing Process Laboratory at UNH, where he remained until retiring in 1992. His research with elementary children at Atkinson Academy gave him the inspiration to write his first book, entitled "Writing: Teachers & Children at Work." Ultimately, he published a total of 26 books in 25 years, not only professional texts, but also a book of poetry dedicated to his grandchildren.

Don was internationally known for his work in children's writing. His deep conviction that children wanted to write pervaded his teachings and radically changed expectations for what young children could accomplish if they were treated as writers. His abiding faith in teachers' ability to make sound instructional decisions also inspired countless educators to revolutionize their teaching.

He was a memorable speaker, known for his storytelling skill, his ability to mimic student voices and his human warmth.

He retired in 1992 to his mountainside home in Jackson, N.H., spending many happy hours as conservator of 14 acres of land, burning brush with his grandchildren and toasting marshmallows over the coals.

He created intricate bedtime stories for his children about "Emu," the talking gorilla. His home office was designed with the delight of his grandchildren in mind, creating a balcony which served as their camp site each Christmas.

He traveled extensively with his wife by bicycle, boat and foot, logging more than 1,000 miles through Europe and taking many photos, which he developed in his basement darkroom.

Don was an avid sports fan and athlete. He began running in the 60's long before it was fashionable. His children often had to answer embarrassing questions about why their father was running down the street in spandex. He was thrilled to have his beloved Red Sox finally win the World Series twice in his lifetime.

He is survived by his wife Betty; daughter Marion Graves Chang and her husband Cheming; daughter Alyce Graves; daughter Caroline Graves Hodsdon and her husband Jack; son William Graves; daughter Laura Graves and her husband Bill Needelman; brother George Graves and his wife Joan; eight grandchildren, and his first great grandchild, expected in the spring.

A memorial service to celebrate his life will be held Oct. 16, 2010 at 9:30 a.m. at the East End Community School, 195 North St., Portland, ME 04101.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to The Telling Room (The Donald H. Graves Fund), 225 Commercial St., Suite 201, Portland, ME 04101, www.tellingroom.org.

Arrangements are by Independent Death Care, 660 Brighton Ave. Portland, ME, 04102, www.independentdeathcare.com.

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Published in Fosters from Oct. 3 to Oct. 4, 2010