John W. Graham
It is with great sadness that we announce the death of John Whichello Graham in his 91st year on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. John died in the comfort of his beloved home in London, Ontario surrounded by the love of his precious wife, Angela Jean Baird and by his adoring daughters, Gillian, Kathleen and Anne.
John was born March 6, 1925 in Montreal. Growing up he lived in Chicago, Winnipeg & one year in Jerusalem. He spent many happy summers at the family cottage at Roches Point on Lake Simcoe. John received a BA at United College - now University of Winnipeg. He went on to attain a PhD in English Literature from the University of Toronto.
John was appointed to the University of Western Ontario in 1949 as an instructor in the Department of English and continued to teach until his retirement in 1990. Throughout his career he taught, wrote, published and administered with skill and passion. He embodied much that is best about a university, particularly in his teaching, and because he was a conservative in the best sense, he kept alive the idea of the university when that idea was, and continues to be, under attack both from without and from within. He loved teaching and insisted on calling his students by their formal name as befitted their adult scholarly status! He skillfully led the department at a time when the old-style head was becoming the new-style chair, and he had much to do with bringing into being the library that we now know as the D.B. Weldon Library at Western. He specialized in Modern English Literature and Poetry and taught freshman, Honours and Graduate courses. His personal academic focus was on the works of Virginia Woolf, particularly The Waves, for which he was highly respected and his work considered some of the finest in the field. John was a superb teacher. He was the kind of person without whom the university would be only buildings, the teacher-scholar for whom classroom and library are living powers.
John enjoyed acting and began that career at an early age continuing to act throughout his life. While in university, he and Angela played star crossed lovers in “Hello Out There" by William Saroyan. In these roles, for which John won a Best Actor Award, they shared a kiss, but “there was no spark"! Years later, the next kiss they shared sealed the deal and the spark burns just as brightly today. They celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary on Sept 14, 2015.
John was the original leader of the St. Thomas book club (still meeting bi-weekly) from its inauguration in 1958 until 2008. He also enjoyed leading the Women’s Book Club in London.
John was a Renaissance man. He enjoyed gardening, music, drawing, reading and working in stained glass. One of his great talents was the refinishing of antique furniture, and we enjoy living with many of his finished pieces. John also relished discussions about religion, politics and literature. He was an engaging, thoughtful, sharp-witted, affable man, a great story-teller and listener.
John will be remembered by his family as being the epitome of a gentle man, a man of integrity, wit, creativity, understanding and compassion. We are grateful for the gift of having him in our lives, and we celebrate the peaceful ending of a life well-lived.
He is predeceased by his parents, William Creighton and Ella Gertrude (Cook) and by his sister, Eleanor (J.B.), his brother, Roger (Kay) and his niece Judith. John was a wonderful brother-in-law and friend to Kathleen (Charles) McLeod, and Gavin Baird (Lydia Shevchuk). He is remembered fondly by his cousin Murray (Merrill) Cook. He leaves behind extended family including nieces and nephews Ellen, Madelaine (Merritt), Marsha (Clay), David (Pamela), Nancy (Leighton), Angela (Wayne), Gord, Martha (Ian), Brian, Shannon, Doug (Marcie), Larissa, Noah (Gillian) and their families.
John and his family have been most appreciative of the exceptional care of Dr. Kathleen McCully, and the many people involved in his home care: the PSWs from Paramed, VON and Medical Priorities, and nurses from Paramed, with special thanks to Holly. We would also like to express our heartfelt gratitude for the love and support of family, many friends and the Friends of Coldstream Meeting, with a special mention of Maria Demelo for her constant care and freindship.
John had a lifelong appreciation of nature. He and Angela have planted many trees on their property in London. In his honour, if you are able, please plant a tree. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to a charity of your choice, or make a contribution in John’s name to The Society of Friends at Coldstream Meeting (online, click DONATIONS at right side of this page).
A visitation will be held at Harris Funeral Home on Friday, Oct. 30th, 5:00-7:00 p.m. at 220 St. James St. in London. A service will be held in celebration of John’s life on Saturday, October 31 at 2:00 p.m. at the Quaker Meeting House, 359 Quaker Lane in Coldstream.
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