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Gaylord E. LaGraves of Stevens Point died on October 22, 2012, in his 84th year following a decade of battling cancer.
Mr. LaGraves was born on January 27, 1929 to James and Lessie (Kealiher) LaGraves. He graduated from P.J. Jacobs High School in 1944 and immediately enlisted in the Navy. He served for five years (1944-49) aboard the USS Brush, seeing action in the islands of the Philippines, Guam, Wake Island, and Japan. After the Japanese surrendered his ship saw action off the shores of China.
While serving in the Navy Mr. LaGraves was exposed to nuclear radiation as a result of an Bikini Atoll atomic tests in 1947, a fact only acknowledged by the military. His cancer reappeared a third time in 2007. His two previous bouts with cancer ended with years of remission between 2001 and 2007.
Following his military service Mr. LaGraves returned home, acquiring a business education at Mid-State Technical College. In 1951 he married Eileen Louise Redding. He worked for nearly 10 years for the Soo Line railroad in the traffic department before going into the grocery and meat distribution business with his brother-in-law in the early 1960s. They operated the business under the name "Bergies Market" on Jefferson Street through the early 1990s when each retired.
An avid letter writer to the local newspapers Mr. LaGraves frequently editorialized, preaching temperance and the need to better educate the young people of the city. He was elected several times as a supervisor in the Town of Dewey, and at age 67 ran unsuccessfully for the school board in Stevens Point. During his campaign for the school board he emphasized the need for more parental involvement, telling the Stevens Point Daily Journal, "Teaching is an art, but the artist is not a magician. The practice that makes perfect must be done in the home." His involvement with young students included lobbying the state legislature to stressing tighter monitoring of student behavior in the states high schools.
In his retirement years Mr. LaGraves focused his efforts on volunteer community service. Mr. LaGraves served on the School Board's Reappointment Committee, and has been a Cub Master and Scout Master with the Boy Scouts. In the 1960s he was a Little League coach, a league bowler, counseled youthful offenders in the Portage County jail system, and in his later years was a reader to first graders at the Madison School.
In recent years he spent the winter months enjoying the sunshine of Florida, where he frequently cruised and fished. A longtime diehard Chicago Cubs fan, he frequently traveled to Wrigley Field with his sons in his younger years.
He is preceded in death by his wife Eileen (deceased in 1981), his brother James (deceased in 1981), and son Kevin (deceased in 1995). He leaves his fiancé Sandy Gollon (Hommosassa, FL); daughters Cathy Koenig (Wakefield, MA), Susan Duchek (Algonquin, IL); sons Keith LaGraves (Wakefield, MA) and Christopher LaGraves (Hermantown, MN); and eleven grandchildren Nathan and Julie LaGraves (Wakefield, MA); Justin Koenig (Richmond, VA); Alex Koenig (New Berlin, WI); Ashleigh, Megan, Dylan and Alexander LaGraves(Tucson, AZ); Brett and Samantha LaGraves (Hermanville, MN) and Emily LaGraves(Madison, WI).
Funeral Services will be held privately. Shuda Funeral Service is assisting the family.
For online condolences, please visit www.shudafuneral.com.
Published in Stevens Point Journal on Oct. 26, 2012