Verdon Raymond Graves, age 94, of Sulphur Springs, passed away in the early morning hours of July 21, 2022, with his wife by his side. He was born December 7, 1927, in the Teagarden Community, a rural area near Alva, Woods County, Oklahoma, the third son to parents Boyd Miles Graves and Elsie Armstrong McCorkle Graves.
Verdon had such a long, interesting, and happy life, from his rural hardscrabble childhood, starting first grade at a small rural one-room schoolhouse at age four, working on the family wheat farm with no electricity for many years. At age 13, he followed the wheat harvest with a neighbor through Kansas, and again at age 14, he followed the wheat harvest. After this harvest, he hitch-hiked to Colorado, where he got a job picking peaches, after which he took a bus back to Alva. At age 14, he quit the school at Farry, Oklahoma, because he wanted to learn to type, and Farry School didn’t offer a typing class. He moved into town in Alva, Oklahoma, to attend his senior year at Alva High School, learned to type and graduated in 1942, while he was still only 16. During his senior year, he lived in a small one-room apartment in the basement of a drugstore, where he worked every afternoon after school. After graduating from Alva High School, he entered college at Northwestern Oklahoma State University and attended until he joined the army at age 18. While at NWOSU, he was in a few plays and fell in love with acting. He still had a job at the drugstore and decided he would become a pharmacist. After entering the army, after boot camp, and because he had worked in a drugstore, he was deployed to Yokohama, Japan, where he served in the U.S. Army Occupation of Japan and was assigned duty as a medic in the PX on base, where he worked until his honorable discharge a couple of years later.
After his stint in the U.S. Army, he returned to Alva to visit his family until time to go back to school, and transferred to Oklahoma University in Norman, Oklahoma, where he graduated from the OU School of Pharmacy in 1948. His first job as a pharmacist was at a drugstore in Duncan, Oklahoma, where he worked until July 1950, when he was persuaded by an OU graduate friend, Bill Saunders, to take a job at a drugstore in Greenville, Texas. In July 1952, they decided to buy a drugstore, which was the Hall-Farrar Drugstore that had been recently sold to Cecil Smith, in Sulphur Springs. They named the store G & S Drugstore.
In August of 1952, he met Jerry Lemon, the cute, petite, redhead daughter of David and Susie Bassham Lemon. By Thanksgiving, Verdon and Jerry became engaged and were married on January 11, 1953. Just a few months later, Verdon bought his partner’s interest and for seventeen years the store was Graves Drugstore. In 1979, Verdon sold his store to Charles Gilreath, and it was absorbed into Nelson’s Pharmacy. For a couple of years Verdon worked at Gibson’s Pharmacy and then at a pharmacy owned by Arkie Miller. After that, he was hired by the Texas State Department of Human Services in Austin, Texas, as a Pharmacy Consultant, where he was employed until his retirement in 1993.
During his working years, Verdon had many other community and civic interests. He was an active member of First United Methodist Church, a member of Messengers’ Sunday School Class, a member of the Sanctuary Choir, taught Sunday School, served on many church committees and was once Chairman of the Board. He donated a great deal of time to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, when his children were active for many years. While serving with the Boy Scouts, he received the honor of Silver Beaver, of which he was very proud, and earned other awards from Boy Scouts. He accompanied a large group of boys from the NeTSeO Trails Council on a trip to the National Boy Scout Jamboree in Idaho during the summer of 1969; they watched live coverage of the NASA moon landing on an outdoor movie screen.
After pharmacy retirement, he and Jerry traveled the country extensively in their motorhome. He generously donated many years of time and effort to Hopkins County Museum and Heritage Park, until ill health forced him to retire from that. He dearly loved to volunteer at many jobs in Heritage Park and served as president of Hopkins County Historical Society for several years. One year he was given the honor of Citizen of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce, Volunteer of the Year by RSVP, and many other awards by various groups in our community. He joined the Main Street Theater and acted in several plays, which he thoroughly enjoyed. He was always half Oklahoman-half Texan.
He was predeceased by his parents, Boyd and Elsie Graves; his two brothers, Boyd LeRoy Graves and John Graves; one newborn son, Merrill Dean Graves; one grandson, Dylan Miles Graves; two nephews, Robert Frank Graves and Richard Ralph (Rick) Orwig, III; two nieces, Donna Graves Beagley Koehn and Connie Graves Bodenschatz Hada, and husband, Harold Hada; one great-niece, Mary Lynn Graves; one great-nephew, Dustin Miles Graves; father- and mother-in-law, David and Susie Lemon; and sister-in-law, Alice Jean Lemon; plus several aunts and uncles in the Graves, McCorkle, Lemon, and Bassham families.
He is survived by his wife of almost 70 years, Jerry Lemon Graves; his son, David Verdon Graves, and wife, Danita Bronson Graves; his son, Boyd Miles Graves, II, and wife, Lynn Lowman Pugsley Graves; and his daughter, Elsianne Graves Horton, and husband, Darrell Wayne Horton; sister-in-law, Patsy Ann (Pat) Lemon Orwig, and husband, Richard Ralph (Dick) Orwig, II; and brother-in-law, William Rawlings Lemon, and wife, Martha (Mickey) McDonald Lemon. He is also survived by grandchildren, D’Anne Graves Chaney, Dena Graves Irving and husband Brent Irving, David Bronson (Dave) Graves and wife Jennifer Duncan Graves, all of Sulphur Springs, Texas; Kristi Graves-John and husband Steve John of Arlington, Texas; William Darrell (Will) Horton and wife Abbigail (Abby) Trahan Horton of Houston, Texas; Grace Horton Lyon and husband Jared Lyon of Mount Vernon, Texas; Tiffany Horton of Round Rock, Texas; Christopher Ryan Pugsley and wife Rebecca Peck Pugsley of Ovid, MI; and Katarina Pugsley of Georgetown, Texas. Also surviving are great-grandchildren, Jaxon Chaney, Austin Chaney, Brynna Irving, Addison Graves, Duncan Graves, Devyn Pugsley, Brooke Pugsley, and Ashton Brown.
Other survivors are nieces and nephews, Patricia “Pat” Graves Ritter and husband Jack Ritter, Coy Schuster Graves, Roger Graves, and wife Jeannette Stauffer Graves, Carolyn Graves Craig Beagley and husband Steve Beagley, Jerry Koehn, Michael Graves and wife Myra Rowell Graves, and Jan Graves, Liz Lemon Rodriguez and husband J.P. Rodriguez, and Cari Lemon; great-nieces and nephews, Cathy Miller, Timothy Miller, Sherrie Graves, Derrick Graves, Stephen Craig, Kimberly Craig Moore, Chrystal Craig Hamblin, Jennifer Bodenschatz Hess, Tanya Bodenschatz Hada Franklin, Katina Beagley, Clinton Beagley, Kimberly Koehn, Kelly Koehn, Dana Hodge, and Jennie Hodge; numerous great-great-nieces and great-great-nephews; and cousins by the dozens, all of whom he loved dearly.
Verdon brought many stories, much love, and the Oklahoma Graves Family humor to Texas, his family and friends, and he will be greatly missed. His legacy lives on through his family, his numerous relatives, friends, and others whose lives he touched through his kindness and compassion instilled from his upbringing on that rural northwest Oklahoma wheat farm where everyone depended heavily on their relatives and neighbors. The road goes on forever and the Boomer Sooner party never ends.
The family would like to thank those who helped take care of Verdon after he became so ill that Jerry and the children could no longer manage his care, Darlene Hammons by day and Linda Hodges by night. When his care became too much for Darlene and Linda, Verdon moved to Wesley Oaks Memory Care, and the family profusely thanks that staff for their loving care. They thank the ER staff at Mother Frances Hospital and Dr. Meltsakos and his surgical staff, who attended Verdon after he fell and broke his hip; the staff at Carriage House Rehab, where he stayed until his hip surgery site healed; the staff of First Choice Hospice of Sulphur Springs; and the staff of Chamber Hospice of Mt. Pleasant; his cardiologist, Manuel Cruz; and his primary care doctor, Darren Arnecke, and his staff. They especially thank Darlene Hammons who stayed on and helped Jerry move to a Wesley House cottage to be near Verdon and helped the family in so many ways. They give special thanks to longtime friends Bernie Beers, HP Hosey, Barbara Law, Ken and Bonnie Burtch, and Odice and Wanda Jenkins for their many visits to Verdon and their love to the family. They also give special thanks to Pastor Ed Lantz and the many friends and relatives who have so tirelessly given time and attention and offered up prayers during this very difficult time. The family suggests, for those who wish to give memorials: First United Methodist Church, 301 Church Street, Sulphur Springs, TX 75482; Hopkins County Museum and Heritage Park, P.O. Box 1066, Sulphur Springs, TX 75483-1066; Alzheimer’s Disease Research, 22512 Gateway Center Drive, Clarksburg, MD 20871; or a charity of choice.
Arrangements under direction of West Oaks Funeral Home of Sulphur Springs. There will be a memorial service to be announced later. The online register may be signed at www.westoaksfuneralhome.com.